National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights

LAS–ELC’s National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program provides legal assistance to workers who face discrimination because of the country they or their families come from; because they belong to a particular ethnic or geographical community (such as Latina/os, Middle Easterners, East Asians or South Asians); because they immigrated to the United States; or because of linguistic, cultural, religious, or other characteristics that are closely tied to their national origin.

The National Origin Program helps individuals to enforce their rights against types of discrimination that affect national origin minority and immigrant workers, particularly those who lack legal status in the United States, through litigation and administrative advocacy. In addition to litigation and direct representation, we engage in legislative and other policy advocacy and provide legal advice and referrals. In collaboration with a range of advocates, we provide technical assistance and education to identify and strengthen the interests of national origin and immigrant communities nationwide.

Some of our recent cases include: 

  • Saephan v. Oakland Unified School District:  In this case, our client was a Mien-speaking school custodian with years of successful job performance whose employer refused to bring her back from layoff, claiming that her English was no longer sufficient for her to do her job.
  • EEOC and Khan v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.:  We obtained monetary relief and nationwide corporate policy changes for a Muslim woman who was fired from her job at an Abercrombie store because she refused to remove her hijab, a headscarf that she was mandated to wear by her religious beliefs.
  • Arias v. Luis Angelo, et al.:  We represent a dairy worker whose employer, and its attorney, contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an attempt to have him deported after he filed a claim for unpaid wages.
  • Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.:  In a case now pending before the California Supreme Court, we represent an immigrant worker whose discrimination claims were dismissed in their entirety based on unproven accusation that he had used someone else’s Social Security number.
  • Guerrero v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, et al.:  Our client in this case is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was rejected for the job as a state Correctional Officer because he disclosed that he was once undocumented and had been given a false Social Security number in order to help support his family.

Immigrant workers and native-born Americans alike are protected against discrimination based on their national origin. It is almost always illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone because she is not a United States citizen. Under the law, employers cannot discriminate against persons because of the language they speak, or because they speak English with difficulty or with an accent, unless there is a demonstrable reason that requiring English to be spoken, or requiring workers to have a certain level of English proficiency, is necessary and related to the job. And even though an employee may not be legally authorized to work in the United States, she is still protected by all of the rights and remedies provided to workers by Federal and California law, with few exceptions.