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NYC Litigation Blog

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Would Donald Trump’s “Go Back to Your Country” Statements Constitute Employment Discrimination?

By now, you have likely heard of the controversy surrounding some recent tweets and statements made by President Trump towards several female Democratic congresswomen. The President’s tweet read that certain congresswomen, who had allegedly made statements expressing their discontent with America in its current state, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” Further, Trump repeated the sentiment in a speech issuing a broader sentiment that if you are not happy here in the United States, you can leave.

Trump’s statements have been lambasted broadly by the media. His controversial statements have raised interesting issues as to whether President Trump’s statements, in fact, constitute racist remarks and whether they could be grounds for employment discrimination. Existing federal and case law suggests that indeed remarks like “go home to your country” are indeed representative of discrimination.

Discrimination Based on National Origin

Federal laws prohibit discrimination by employers against employees based on an employee’s national origin.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides examples of conduct and statements that may constitute employment discrimination on its website. One example mirrors strikingly President Trump’s statements. It states that examples of potentially unlawful discrimination include comments like “Go back to where you came from.”  

Based on federal law, it appears likely that had an employer made comments to an employee like those made by President Trump, he or she could be subject to a lawsuit. Several cases would support this notion, including a New York case in which the employer told the employee essentially to return to her own country if she wanted to speak Spanish. 

Recognizing Employment Discrimination Based on National Origin 

Trump’s tweets should serve as a reminder to employees nationwide as to what conduct may constitute discrimination based on national origin. In general, national origin discrimination involves treating those who are from a different country or part of the world unfavorably due to their ethnicity or accent. It may also constitute discrimination if an employee is treated unfavorably based on their appearance as a certain ethnic group, even if in fact they are not from that region. Discrimination is expressly forbidden in the workplace when it comes to hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, and the like. Should you suspect you are the victim of employment discrimination, contact an employment discrimination lawyer right away.

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