The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently issued new guidelines on national origin discrimination in the workplace. These guidelines have remained unchanged for nearly fifteen years.

The EEOC enforces several federal laws regarding equality in the workplace, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids employment discrimination on the basis of national origin. Of all of the complaints made to the EEOC regarding private-sector employees in 2015, about 11% of them were regarding national origin discrimination. In the guidelines, the EEOC acknowledges that immigrants make up a disproportionate share of some of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., adding to the importance of clear guidelines against discrimination.

EEOC Guidelines Address New Categories of National Origin Discrimination

The new guidelines address specific areas including job segregation, human trafficking, and so-called “intersectional discrimination.” It’s also important to note that the proposed guidelines do not change the EEOC’s rules on national origin discrimination, but rather seek to clarify the rules and how the agency will apply them using specific examples. They also serve as a reference for EEOC staff. The new proposed enforcement guidelines were open for comments by the public for 30 days, a period which ended July 1, 2016. Now that the comment period is closed, the EEOC will read through the comments and make revisions to the guidelines before finalizing them. Once the EEOC finalizes the new guidelines, they will supersede the previous national origin discrimination enforcement document and go into force.

What Is National Origin Discrimination Under Title VII?

The EEOC enforces, among other laws, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants on the basis of their race, color, religion, or national origin. The EEOC’s definition of “national origin” is broad, and includes an individual’s place of origin or their ancestor’s place of origin. It also includes discrimination against an individual because that person has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group. The place of origin may be a country, or it may be a region that was never a country but is closely associated with an ethnic group, like Acadia or Kurdistan. Title VII also forbids employers from discriminating against a member of a “national origin group.” A “national origin group” is a group of people sharing characteristics that identify them as originating from a particular place. These characteristics include race, language, cultural practices, and other social characteristics.

Human Trafficking and Other National Origin Discrimination Categories

One of the new areas addressed is called “intersectional discrimination,” which is when an employer discriminates against groups with multiple protected characteristics, such as female Asians. Such a discrimination would still be considered national original origin discrimination, even though the employer did not discriminate against all Asians. Another new area the guidelines address is human trafficking. The guidelines specify that human trafficking may not only violate criminal laws, but also Title VII, if the employer targets their coercive employment practices against a specific ethnic group (for example, they seize the passports of all of their Indian employees).

A third area the new guidelines address is job segregation. Job segregation is when employers only consider members of a particular national origin group for a limited set of job roles, while denying them consideration for other jobs. The guidelines state that this practice is a violation of Title VII.

How are California Employees Protected from National Origin Discrimination?

In addition to federal employment laws offering workers more protections from discrimination based on national origin, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides its own set of rules against employment discrimination. According to the FEHA, it is unlawful for a California employer to subject employees or job applicants to adverse employment actions based on their actual or perceived national origin or ancestry, or their association with others (such as a spouse) who actually are, or perceived to be of a particular national origin. You can read more details on the FEHA’s definition of national origin discrimination laws here.

National Origin Discrimination Laws: For Further Reading

  • EEOC Guidance Targets National Origin Bias via Business Management Daily
  • National Origin Discrimination in California: Facts for Employees
  • National Origin Discrimination in California: Real EEOC Case Examples
  • Public May Provide Input to National Origin Discrimination Proposal via The Telegraph

No one should ever have to worry about workplace discrimination due to their cultural background. If you feel you are a victim of national origin discrimination in California, contact our experienced employment attorneys today for a free consultation.