EEOC Issues Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination

In today’s political climate, it is more important than ever to protect workers from workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment and discrimination based on protected characteristics such as gender, race/color, religion, sexual orientation, and national origin.

Last week the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal administrative agency tasked with enforcing, inter alia, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, issued its Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination [PDF; press releaseEEOC site].

This Enforcement Guidance gives useful insight and citations to authority on various issues, including what constitutes national origin discrimination, the factors bearing on a hostile work environment in this context, employer liability, accent discrimination, and restrictive (e.g., English-only) language policies.

It provides, inter alia:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, protects applicants and employees from employment discrimination based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, opposition to practices made unlawful by Title VII, or participation in Title VII proceedings. Title VII’s protection against national origin discrimination extends to all employees and applicants for employment in the United States, and, in some circumstances, to U.S. citizens working in other countries. In enacting this protection, Congress recognized that whether an individual (or her ancestors) is from China, Russia, or Nigeria, or belongs to an ethnic group, such as Hispanic or Arab, she is entitled to be free from employment discrimination on that basis.

The American workforce is increasingly ethnically diverse. The largest percentages of immigrants to the United States are now from Asia and Latin America, which extends a recent trend. Immigration from Africa and the Caribbean countries also continues to enhance diversity among Black Americans. …

Generally, national origin discrimination means discrimination because an individual (or his or her ancestors) is from a certain place or has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group. Title VII prohibits employer actions that have the purpose or effect of discriminating against persons because of their real or perceived national origin. National origin discrimination includes discrimination by a member of one national origin group against a member of the same group.

If you believe you have been a victim of national origin discrimination, contact us today to discuss your rights.

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