What Is Race, Natural Hair, Color, Ancestry, Nationality And National Origin Discrimination?

We group these characteristics together because, in today’s diverse and highly mobile world, many people identify themselves in more complex ways, rather than just as a member of one race or another. Many people are biracial or multiracial, and issues arise as to whether categories like “Latino/Latina” or “Hispanic” are races or ethnicities or cultural identities.

What is Natural Hair Discrimination?

In December 2019, New Jersey passed the Create a Respectful and Open Workspace for Natural Hair Act known as the CROWN Act. The CROWN Act was passed exactly one year after a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks in order to compete in a match. That Act amends the Law Against Discrimination’s definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.”

The CROWN Act itself defines protective hairstyles as including, but not being limited to, braids, locks, and twists. The Act essentially made lawful guidance issued by the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights that interpreted race discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of hairstyle.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination does not define any of these terms. As a result, they have their commonly understood meanings. Race means an identifiable group of people sharing a physically visible distinguishing characteristic such as skin color, which is itself specifically mentioned in the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Ancestry refers to one’s familial background or ethnicity, such as being Italian-American. Nationality refers to one’s country of citizenship. National origin refers to the country in which one was born or raised prior to coming to the United States.

Employers Still Try To Hide Their Discriminatory Motives

While race discrimination is alive and well in New Jersey, employers generally try to hide their discriminatory intent and motives. As a result, New Jersey employers tend not to engage in obvious race or color discrimination. Even that is not without exceptions because we have handled cases involving workplaces where “KKK” graffiti and nooses were present.

More common are cases in which the discrimination is indirect and subtler, involving promotions, demotions or terminations and pay rates. While subtler forms of discrimination are more challenging to prove, indirect proof through circumstantial evidence is enough by itself to prove discrimination. In other words, you don’t have to show direct evidence like racist comments to prove discrimination.

While nationality and national origin discrimination cases usually involve discrimination against immigrants to this country, there are also many cases involving discrimination against native-born Americans by companies based in other countries. In some of these countries, it is legal (or at least culturally acceptable) to favor employees from the home country.

So, for example, Americans working for foreign-owned companies here will sometime bump up against a nationality/national origin “glass ceiling” that allows only employees from the home country to hold high-level management positions. Similarly, foreign-owned companies will sometimes buy American companies and then replace all the American managers and executives with counterparts from the home country.

Experiencing Race Discrimination Or National Origin Discrimination?

If you are being or have been discriminated against because of your race, color, ancestry, nationality or national origin, call the New Jersey racial discrimination attorneys at Lenzo & Reis, LLC, at 973-821-3723. We handle the full spectrum of discrimination issues in Morristown, Newark and Jersey City, and throughout New Jersey. You can also reach our experienced lawyers by completing our online form.