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Do National Origin Discrimination Laws Protect Americans?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2019 | National Origin Discrimination, Retaliation, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio National Origin Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I be discriminated against because of where I am from? Can a company based outside of the United States discriminate against me because I am American? Are National Origin discrimination cases worth it? I was discriminated against because I’m American; can I sue my employer?

In today’s modern global economy workplaces are more diverse than ever before. Most large companies have employees from all over the world working for them. For example, according to Cleveland.com, Northeast Ohio based Sherwin Williams has over 20,000 employees scattered over 70 countries! The facts are that with advancements in technology and the global economy workplaces are becoming more diverse. People from different countries, with different ancestry and different backgrounds are sharing the same workplace. Now, more than ever native-born workers are working alongside immigrants’ employees of vast number of national origins This can lead to interesting workplace dynamics, and businesses often discover that a diverse workplace is a profitable workplace. Unfortunately, there are still closed-minded bosses, managers, supervisors, and employers who refuse to get with the times and discriminate against employees of different national origins.

Under Ohio Revised Code R.C. § 4112.02(A), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, it is illegal for any employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s national origin or ethnic background. These employment laws expressly prohibit national origin from adversely impacting decisions to hire, fire, promote, demote, set compensation and other terms and conditions of employment.

In this employment law blog, our discrimination lawyers explore two recent cases of national origin discrimination. First, the unique case of Stephen Middlebrooks, an American who claims that his employer, the Israel based Teva Pharmaceuticals discriminated against him based upon his age and national origin. Then we will discuss the more typical case of Thierno Diallo, a man from Guinea who claims that he was discriminated against by his American employer and coworkers.

What makes the case of Stephen Middlebrook so unique is that most national origin discrimination claims involve discrimination claims based on an employee’s non-American country of origin. But, Title VII and corresponding state law do not specify that only non-Americans can be discriminated against. This is similar to so-called reverse discrimination claims, as our employment attorneys have blogged before. (See Top Race Discrimination Lawyer Reply: Do Race Discrimination Laws Protect White Employees? And Top Wrongful Termination Lawyer Reply: Can White People Sue For Race Discrimination in Ohio?). The protections under Title VII and similar state law are neutral to national origin. This means that a person’s national origin is not important, what is important is if a person has experienced discrimination based on their national origin – whatever that may be.

Stephen Middlebrook is a 60-year-old American who worked for Teva Pharmaceuticals as a Senior Director. While Middlebrook worked at Teva, he was subjected to many comments based on his American nationality. One of Middlebrook’s supervisors made comments such as “Americans have a narrow-minded perception of Israelis” and that Americans “did a poor job of supporting Israel in its military actions in the Middle East.” Middlebrook and other Americans were subjected to micromanagement by Israeli @#supervisors. Further, Middlebrook claimed that his supervisors failed give information to Americans when American employees requested it, changed the American employee’s objectives and frequently sought out extra information about American employees. Middlebrooks complained of the cultural bias to his Human Resources department. Within two weeks of Middlebrooks complaint to higher-ups he was given his “first-ever” poor performance review. After this negative review Teva placed Middlebrock on a Performance Improvement Plan, or a PIP. A short while later, Middlebrooks was terminated for subpar performance and an alleged failure to live up to his PIP. Teva then replaced Middlebrook with a much younger employee.

Middlebrooks filed a claim for national origin and age discrimination claims under Title VII and its corresponding Pennsylvania law. (For more on age discrimination check out some of our previous blogs; The Employee’s Attorney: Ohio Age Discrimination Lawyers, The Most Important Thing You Can Do Today: Call The Right Attorney, Can I Sue If An Employer Will Not Hire Me Because I’m Too Old? I Need The Best Age Discrimination Lawyer In Ohio!, Can Employers Take Only Younger Job Applicants?). The court held that Middlebrooks was able to provide enough evidence to support a reasonable claim of both national origin and age discrimination. Teva’s attempted to argue that it terminated Middlebrooks for a nondiscriminatory reason, namely his alleged poor performance and his apparent inability to meet the conditions of his PIP. The main element the court focused on was the evidence Middlebrook provided that showed that Teva’s given reason for terminating him was pretext, also known as a lie.

The court determined that there was a genuine issue of fact in regard to the pretext element (whether the employer lied about the reason for firing the employee) in the national origin discrimination claim. The court made this determination based on the testimony of Middlebrooks and several of his former American team members of multiple incidents of anti-American bias by Teva’s management. This evidence included comments about Americans by Israeli employees, and Teva’s refusal to discipline two Israeli supervisors for their inappropriate behavior during a June 2015 meeting. The court also noted evidence that Israeli supervisors that had legitimate performance issues, and that this supervisor was not disciplined or placed on a PIP. To read the courts decision click the following link: (Middlebrooks v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., et al., No. 17-412, (E.D. Pa., Aug. 31, 2018)).

When the case went before a jury, the jury saw right through Teva’s lies, and found in favor of Middlebrooks on both his age and national origin discrimination claims. The jury taught Teva a lesson in tolerance to the tune of $6.2 million!

As discussed, Middlebrooks’ case of a foreign based company discriminating against an American based on his national origin is certainly unique.

Now, let us look at a more typical case. Thierno Diallo, worked at a Whole Foods in New York in their produce department. Diallo was born in Guinea and had moved to America to seek new opportunities for himself. During Diallo’s time at Whole Foods, team leaders “made frequent negative comments about people from Africa and sometimes called Diallo names.” The team leaders would also laugh at Diallo when he told them about his hopes and dreams of becoming a supervisor. The team leaders made a point of telling Diallo that there were no African team leaders. Whole Foods eventually fired Diallo for allegedly not returning fast enough from a lunch break.

Take a moment to put Diallo’s situation in perspective. A young man who left his home country with the hope of making a better life for himself and his family. He was able to find an entry level job in the retail industry where he worked hard, and without complaint despite the physical labor and having to deal with rude customers, all the while with the goal of becoming a supervisor and working his way up in the world. All Diallo truly wanted was to live the American dream, only to have his team leaders laugh in his face, and eventually find a reason to terminate him. That sure makes my blood boil!

Diallo sued, claiming that his termination was a violation of Title VII. Whole Foods countered by claiming that they consider Diallo’s one-time infraction returning from his lunch break a few minutes late was time theft, and an infraction worth terminating him for. Once again, the court found the employers reason to be pretextual (liar, liar pants on fire). Instead, the court found Diallo’s testimony claiming that non-African Whole Food employees regularly took long lunch breaks, yet these non-African employees were not terminated credible, and shut down Whole Foods attempts to get the case thrown out. While Diallo’s case has not yet been fully decided, a federal judge recently decided that Diallo has provided convincing enough evidence that the case will go before a jury. To read the judges decision click the following link: (Diallo v. Whole Foods Market Group, Inc., No. 16-cv-9228, (S.D.N.Y., Jan. 9, 2019)). Diallo’s case will go before a jury soon, and the employment lawyers at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm will be sure to keep an eye on the case.

If you feel that your employer is discriminating against you based on your national origin (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Palestinian, Syrian, Asian, Indian, Russian or even American), you may have a legal claim. To find out if you have a legal claim for national origin discrimination, your best option is to call the right attorney Call our office at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation at one of our offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, and throughout Ohio. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with a national origin discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.

The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I sue my employer for wrongful termination?”, “What should I do if I was fired today because of my national origin?”, “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Russian, Chinese, Syrian, Japanese, Asian)?” or “I was fired because of my accent. What can I do?”, it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem.

Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.