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Even federal employees can be victims of origin discrimination

Origin discrimination is a problem that people from other countries may face as federal employees.

Working for the federal government is a dream come true for many people in Pennsylvania, but it is not always easy for those who come from a different ancestry. If people think that their supervisor or the agency has denied them opportunity because of where they come from or their ethnic background, they may be victims of origin discrimination.

Policies that are directed at origin

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, any employer (including a federal one) cannot put a policy in place that targets people’s backgrounds unless it has a direct impact on the agency’s ability to function. The most common policy example under this rule is related to language but it could refer to other policies such as dress.

For example, maybe a person is applying for a job with the U.S. Postal Service that will have them interacting on a daily basis with the public. The USPS could list fluent English as a requirement and would be within its right to do so, since it could show that without English-speaking employees, it would be unable to adequately serve its customers. However, if the job was in a mail sorting room where just rudimentary English would apply, then the applicant may be able to argue that an English-only policy is discriminatory in nature.


Harassment is something that unfortunately, occurs quite often in the workplace but the United States Department of Justice states that if it centers around origin, people are reluctant to report it. Harassment could include comments or jokes that make fun of people’s backgrounds or are derogatory. For instance, an employee is from the Middle East. The employee has no sympathies for terrorist groups but is still subjected to comments about how every person from that area is a terrorist.

Influencing critical decisions

Using someone’s origin as a factor in major employment decisions is prohibited under federal law. This includes hiring, firing, promotions, demotions and even job assignments. However, it can be difficult for people to recognize when they are a victim of this type of discrimination. One red flag would be any questions during the application process that are directed on the person’s country of origin. Another one would be the request for documentation when other applicants of native birth are not under the same obligation.

Employees in Pennsylvania who feel that they have been unjustly treated because of where they were born may find it helpful to meet with an attorney. The attorney can explain to them what their rights are and what actions are available to them.