1. The court determines that Kristi was fired based on Javiers status as an undocumented alien, not his Mexican nationality....
1. The court determines that Kristi was fired based on Javier’s status as an undocumented alien, not his Mexican nationality. Do you agree that termination based upon the citizenship status (“alienage”) of a worker’s spouse is less unethical or wrongful than termination based on a spouse’s national origin?
2. Although the court does not deem it necessary to give an opinion on the issue in this case, several district courts have ruled that Title VII prohibits discrimination against a worker based upon the national origin of the worker’s spouse or partner. However, this issue remains an unsettled legal area. If you were on a jury asked to decide if Title VII should apply to spouses or partners in national origin cases, how would you rule?
3. According to the court’s dicta in this opinion, workplace tirades against “illegal aliens” (like that of Mike Hubbs, Salin Bank’s security officer) may be “disagreeable.” but such speech is not evidence of impermissible discrimination unless the specific national origin of the immigrant or immigrant group is referenced. Do you agree that Hubbs’ comments to Kristi Cortezano about her husband’s citizenship status can be clearly distinguished from Javier’s Mexican national origin? Why or why not?
Issue: Whether Title VII guards against alienage-based discrimination.
Facts: Kristi Cortezano, a United States citizen, was married to a Mexican citizen residing in the United States illegally. While employed by Salin Bank & Trust, Cortezano assisted her husband in opening a bank account. She told her employers of her husband’s unauthorized status and was subsequently fired. Cortezano filed a suit against her former employer under Title VII, alleging that she was discriminated against because of her husband’s national origin. Her claim was rejected, as the courts found that any discrimination that led to Cortezano’s firing was not based on her husband’s race or national origin but his status as an undocumented alien (“alienage”).
Decision: Reviewing the statute’s legislative history, the Court concluded that the term “national origin” was limited to “the country from which you or your forebears came.” Thus, national origin discrimination as defined in Title VII encompasses discrimination based on one’s ancestry, but not discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status. The Court thought that it would have been inconsistent for Congress to have proscribed discrimination against aliens given the “longstanding practice of requiring federal employees to be United States citizens.” In light of these conclusions, the Court explicitly held that “nothing” in Title VII “makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of citizenship or alienage.”
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