National Origin

Discrimination on the basis of national origin is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the major federal antidiscrimination law. Employers subject to Title VII may not make employment decisions based on birthplace, ancestry, culture, native language, surname, or other characteristics that are closely associated with someone’s country of origin.

Special rules apply to language requirements. The languages people are comfortable speaking, accents, and fluency are all closely related to national origin. At the same time, however, the law recognizes that an employer may have a legitimate need to make sure customers can understand employees and employees can speak to each other in a common language, for example.

This section explains national origin discrimination, including the special rules that apply to English-only restrictions and other language policies.

Resources on National Origin Discrimination

Your Rights in the Workplace
Nolo’s essential guide to all of your workplace rights, including the right to work free from national origin discrimination.

The Essential Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
Written for managers and employers, this handy reference explains how to recognize and handle discrimination claims.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The website of the federal EEOC provides detailed information on Title VII and national origin discrimination.

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