National Origin Discrimination

National origin discrimination is the practice of treating someone unfairly in the workplace because of birth nation, ancestry, culture, language, surname, or accent. Outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it's illegal under federal law. No matter where a person is from, he or she has the same rights and equal access to employment opportunity for any business that has more than 15 employees.

What Are Some Examples of National Origin Discrimination?

There are many instances of national origin discrimination, and a more thorough knowledge helps both employees and employers to know their rights and avoid unsavory situations. Some examples include discrimination based on:

  • Surname that's attached to a particular origin group

  • Marriage or civil union with a person of a national origin group

  • A membership in or association with a national origin group

  • Participation or attendance in places of worship or schools associated with a national origin group

  • Physical and cultural traits associated with a particular group

  • Height or weight requirements that are associated against a national origin when the requirements do not relate to the job

  • Harassment based on the perception that a person is part of a national origin group even if he or she is not

  • Harassment in the form of ethnic slurs, drawings, cartoons, or other offensive comments or media directed toward a national origin group. This includes stereotypes about the person or his or her homeland

Any employee who feels he or she has been discriminated against based upon these examples can file a complaint with his or her state's division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This includes instances of both employees and supervisors using this behavior, whether the employer knows about it or not.

National Origin Group Under Federal Law

National origin groups have protection under numerous federal laws including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly protects national origin groups from discrimination. This includes aspects such as recruitment, layoffs, hiring, and firing practices.

  • The Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, extends employment discrimination protection to individuals based on citizenship or immigration status. This also covers document abuse discrimination, which happens when a hiring agent asks for more documents than required to reject or verify employment eligibility.

  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, or IRCA, is an amendment of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which extends protection to citizens and nationals of the United States, temporary residents, permanent residents, and refugees.

  • State laws may also cover national origin groups, but each varies from location to location.

One important difference to make among these acts is that Title VII applies to companies with 15 or more employees, while the INA and IRCA applies to companies with four to 14 employees. This also impacts which agency investigates claims. The EEOC enforces Title VII, while the INA and IRCA are the responsibility of immigration and customs.

Who's Covered by National Origin Discrimination Laws?

All the laws regarding national origin discrimination apply to current employees and any job applicants. This means that if a worker isn't hired because of national origin, or a current employee isn't promoted due to national origin, both are protected by the law. Sometimes, this even covers racial discrimination or color discrimination, as many national origin groups have different skin colors or racial identity.

Interviews and National Origin Discrimination

During an interview, there are many guidelines the interviewer must follow, while others aren't illegal and a response is voluntary. On a job application, applicants can state their national identity for purposes of affirmative action, but it's not required.

Once the interview begins, there are some aspects that national origin groups should know. It's illegal for any interviewer to ask anything about citizenship status, but they are allowed to ask if the person can provide proof that they are eligible to work in the U.S. This is normally required within three days of the start of employment.

An employer may not have a "citizens only" policy, unless U.S. citizenship is a necessity of the job, and may not fail to hire a person of national origin because other workers may find the arrangement uncomfortable.

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