Immigration is a hot topic right now in the race toward the presidential election. I’m sure you have seen it all over social media, and everyone seems to have an opinion. While employees are allowed to have their own opinions on the matter, they must be restricted from bringing those opinions (and discussions) into the workplace. As with other types of discrimination, the definition of national origin discrimination is widening in scope. Employers must take affirmative steps to prevent this type of discrimination, and investigate any potential violations in the workplace.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently proposed an update to its guidance on employment discrimination based on national origin.   The proposal is open for public comment through July 5th, and includes important directives for employers.

National origin discrimination is currently defined as employment discrimination that occurs “because of an individual’s, or his or her ancestor’s place of origin; or because an individual has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.”  29 C.F.R. § 1606.1. The proposal notes that the EEOC defines national origin discrimination broadly, and that the EEOC will pay particular attention to charges alleging discrimination based on national origin including:

  • marriage to or association with persons of a national origin group
  • membership in, or association with, an organization identified with or seeking to promote the interests of national origin groups
  • attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques, generally used by persons of a national origin group, and
  • the individual’s name or spouse’s name being associated with a national origin group.

Election season is always a good time to remind employees of the importance of respect in the workplace. The newly proposed EEOC guidance reinforces the importance of employers taking an active role in stopping workplace discrimination.

If you receive a complaint of potential discrimination in the workplace…!