National Origin and Citizenship Discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of national origin or “ethnicity” is prohibited by Title VII for employers with 15 or more workers. Although not specifically defined in the statute, “national origin” has been defined as “the country of one’s ancestry.” Although Title VII does not cover discrimination based upon citizenship, requirements that have the effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin may be illegal. The EEOC also considers English-only rules to be illegal. Also, as with race bias, harassment in the form of ethnic slurs or other verbal or physical conduct related to national origin may violate the statute.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) – Discrimination on the basis of citizenship or national origin is also prohibited under the IRCA. The IRCA requires employers to verify that all employees hired after November 6, 1986 are authorized to work in the United States. In addition, the IRCA prohibits all employers with at least four employees from discriminating on the basis of national origin or citizenship. The IRCA prohibits discrimination in hiring, and prohibits firing, intimidating, threatening, coercing, or retaliating against any individual who files or intends to file a charge or complaint.

In addition, employers are prohibited from asking only individuals who look or sound foreign or who are of a particular national origin for documents showing proof of their identity and work authorization. To obtain information about filing a charge of National Origin or Citizenship discrimination under the IRCA, contact the Office of Special Council at 1-800-255-7688 (hearing impaired 1-800-237-2515).

Note that national origin discrimination charges may be filed under either Title VII or the IRCA if the employer has 15 or more employees. For questions regarding national origin discrimination under Title VII call 1-800-USA-3302.