February 7, 2017

national origin discrimination

For the first time in over a decade, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revised its “Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination.” The goal is to help organizations reduce the risk of costly claims of workplace discrimination based on ethnicity or country of origin.

The timing of the updated guidelines could not be better, as the US workplace grows increasingly diverse and organizations in practically every industry face divisive national issues including immigration, deportation and racial profiling.  

What is national origin discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against individuals because of their national origin group. A ‘national origin group,’ or an ‘ethnic group,’ is a group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race, and/or other social characteristics. Hispanics, Arabs, and Roma are examples of ethnic or national origin groups. A place of origin can be a country such as Mexico or Syria or a geographic region such as Kurdistan. National origin discrimination can occur when a member of one national origin group discriminates against a member of the same group.

The guidelines are comprehensive, covering everything from employment decisions and hiring to language and citizenship issues and include workplace examples.  The guidelines culminate with a list of “promising practices”  to help employers reduce the risk of Title VII violations. Here is a summary…

Do’s and Don’ts for Reducing the Risk of National Origin Discrimination Claims
  • Practice a variety of recruitment methods
  • Recruit using multiple newspapers that reach numerous populations
  • Use online postings, job fairs and open houses available to all
  • Use ads stating the employer is an “equal opportunity employer”
  • Rely too heavily on word of mouth hiring as people tend to recommend employees within their own ethnic group
  • Advertise positions in newspapers or other forums that disproportionately reach certain ethnic group(s)
  • Establish written, objective criteria for evaluating candidates & employees
  • Communicate criteria to applicants and apply them equally to all employees
  • Tie objective criteria to business needs
  • Ask all candidates the same interview questions
  • Rely heavily on subjective evaluation criteria, such as customer reviews
  • Rely on evaluation criteria unrelated to job requirements
  • Develop objective, job-related criteria for discipline, demotion & discharge
  • Implement a progressive discipline policy
  • Implement a policy that allows for corrective redemption
  • Ensure policies are made available to non-English speakers if they are present in the workplace
  • Allow inexperienced managers to impose discipline, demotion or discharge without supervision
  • Communicate to all employees through policies and actions that national origin harassment is not tolerated
  • Implement procedures for addressing complaints
  • Investigate claims of national origin discrimination like any other discrimination claim
  • Train managers to identify and respond to harassment
  • Put an end to harassing conduct quickly
  • Omit national origin discrimination from the organization’s Code of Conduct, believing that employees may not complain if they are not expressly aware of their rights

The American workplace is more diverse than ever.  The EEOC’s revised guidelines are a timely reminder for employers to review their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and procedures, Codes of Conduct and hiring practices to ensure that issues such as national origin discrimination are discussed and addressed appropriately.