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Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

Will New Guidelines on National Origin Discrimination Create a Fairer Workplace?

By Dan Atkerson on December 08, 2016

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released new guidelines on how to handle national origin discrimination in the workplace. The guidelines clarify how discrimination laws in the Civil Rights Act will be enforced. It also provides businesses with tips and examples on how to avoid issues.

How Does the Law Define National Origin Discrimination?

The law defines national origin discrimination as any unfair or different treatment towards an employee because of their country of origin. It also includes discrimination based on related factors, such as their country of ancestry, and any linguistic or cultural factors that are associated with their ancestral group. The law also protects people who are discriminated against because of a perceived, as opposed to an actual, nation of origin.

How Do New Guidelines Add to this Definition?

The guidelines clarify how the agency will interpret certain aspects of the law. For example, it says that treating an employee differently because of their citizenship status is a form of national origin discrimination. It also let’s businesses know that it is not acceptable to alter an employee’s responsibilities based on complaints from customers.

For instance, if customers at a restaurant complain that the waiter is from a particular country, it would be discrimination to change that employee’s role to accommodate customers. Another example the guide gives is encouraging an employee to speak with a different accent, when that accent does not materially affect the employee’s ability to do their job. Requiring that same employee to speak fluent English, however, is not considered discrimination in many cases, since that directly relates to job performance.

Most of these guidelines simply provide some clarification and examples to let businesses know what is an isn’t acceptable. The hope is that by letting companies know what won’t be tolerated, the EEOC can help create a more equal workplace for everyone.

Dan A. Atkerson is a Dallas employment lawyer who fights passionately on behalf of victims of racial discrimination, national origin discrimination and other forms of workplace injustice.

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