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EEOC Issues Final Guidance on National Origin Discrimination

For the first time in fourteen years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated its guidance on national origin discrimination. This new guidance provides detailed information on a wide variety of employment situations involving national origin and gives employers suggestions to reduce their risk of engaging in such discrimination. The guidance offers employers a clearer understanding of how the EEOC will approach employees who claim such discrimination.

Generally, national origin discrimination is discrimination because an individual is from a particular country or has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group. Issues that arise from accent discrimination, fluency requirements, and English-only rules as well as citizenship are addressed within the guidance. Per the EEOC’s guidance, Title VII prohibits employers from taking actions that may discriminate against employees because of real or perceived national origin. National origin discrimination can be between members of the same group.

Some recommended employer practices to avoid discrimination are: using a variety of recruitment methods to attract a more diverse workplace; visibly identifying as an “equal opportunity employer”; written criteria tied to business needs for employment decisions; objective written job-related criteria for evaluating employee performance; keeping careful written records of disciplinary actions; clearly communicating to employees via policies and actions that harassment will not be tolerated; and finally making sure employees are aware of the policies and receive training.