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IMA Human Resources Blog

EEOC Issues New Guidance on National Origin Discrimination


In late November, the EEOC issued a new guidance for employers dealing with national origin discrimination in the workplace under Title VII. This is the first guidance issued on this topic in over a decade. The guidance clarifies that national origin discrimination means discrimination because an individual is from a certain place or shares the physical, cultural, or language characteristics of a national origin or ethnic group. National origin may be a country (Mexico), a former country (Yugoslavia), or a geographical place associated with an ethnic group (Kurdistan). A national origin group is a group of people who share a common language, culture, ancestry, and/or other social characteristics (such as Hispanics/Latinos or Arabs).

Importantly, the guidance makes clear that national origin does not refer to citizenship or immigration status. Nevertheless, applicants and individuals working in the United States are protected from discrimination and retaliation regardless of their immigration status and even though they may be undocumented. Employers, through the I-9 process, are required to verify an applicant’s lawful work status in order to hire and allow the applicant to work. Equally important, the guidance make clear that Title VII does not require accommodation of national origin traditions or practices, where those traditions or practices are not religious. An employer would, however, need to grant a request for religious accommodation if doing so would not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

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