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What You Need to Know About National Origin Discrimination


What You Need to Know About National Origin Discrimination

EEOC issues new guidance on the topic

You may already be familiar with the basic concepts surrounding racial discrimination. However, fewer people may be aware of something called national origin discrimination.

While these two types of discrimination may appear to be similar on the surface, there are some important differences to keep in mind.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency charged with enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws, recently issued updated guidance on national origin discrimination. Let’s take a look at what’s included and how it might affect you.

What is national origin discrimination?

According to the EEOC, national origin discrimination doesn’t refer to citizenship or immigration status. Rather, this type of discrimination applies to instances in which an individual is treated unlawfully because of his or her (or an ancestor’s) association with a certain place, or because the person shares the physical, cultural, or language characteristics of a specific ethnic group.

It’s important to note that national origin may be identified by a country, a former country, or a region that is frequently associated with an ethnic group.

A national origin group is a group of people who share a common language, culture, ancestry, and/or other social characteristics.

According to the new EEOC guidance, federal law protects prohibits employers from:

  • treating an individual less favorably because he or she is from a certain place, or has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin (ethnic) group
  • using an employment policy or practice that disproportionately impacts people on the basis of national origin and is not shown to be job related and consistent with business necessity.

Individuals are also protected from national origin discrimination based on the perception that they are associated with a certain group, even if that perception is incorrect.

Multiple claims are common

According to the EEOC, many complaints of national origin discrimination are paired with other discrimination complaints, such as race, color, or religion.

People who experience national origin discrimination may also experience unlawful harassment. Harassment claims involve conduct that is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile, intimidating, or abusive.

The EEOC lists the following as frequent examples of national origin harassment when directed toward someone because of his or her birthplace, ethnicity, culture, language, dress, or accent:

  • ethnic slurs
  • ridicule
  • intimidation
  • workplace graffiti
  • physical violence
  • other offensive conduct

For more information, see the EEOC’s Q&A on its updated guidelines.

Call us now

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against or harassed at work because of your national origin (or someone’s perception of your national origin), it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.

Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.

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