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Race, national origin and ethnicity: What’s the difference?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2021 | Employment Discrimination |

You know that you cannot discriminate against employees when hiring them, firing them, giving out promotions, setting pay scales and the like. All employees deserve to be treated equally. 

That said, you may have some questions about specific protected classes. You can’t discriminate based on race, ethnicity or national origin, for example, but are those essentially the same thing? Or are there some major differences between them? 

The three main categories and their differences

There are actually three main categories to consider: Race, ethnicity and national origin. While they may seem similar, they are fairly different, and you must know what that means. Here’s a simple breakdown: 

  • National origin or nationality: This refers to where a person was born. Regardless of their personal characteristics, which can vary significantly, you must not discriminate based on where they came from.
  • Ethnicity: This refers to cultural characteristics and what makes someone part of another group. For instance, their hairstyle or accent may connect them with a specific ethnic group, no matter what they look like or where they live.
  • Race: In the most common example, someone’s race just refers to a person’s physical characteristics, such as skin color, facial features, hair color, etc., like whether someone is identified as Black, white or Hispanic.

Of course, it is possible for discrimination to fit into all of these categories. Regardless, discrimination is illegal and must be avoided. 

What if you face allegations of discrimination from an employee?

Perhaps you have tried to avoid discrimination, knowing it is illegal, but your company is facing allegations of racial or ethnic discrimination anyway. If so, make sure you are well aware of all of your legal options