Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

National Origin Discrimination: Legal Protections at Work

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on someone's:

  • Nation of origin
  • Citizenship status
  • Culture
  • Ethnicity or perceived ethnicity

These laws prohibit what's known as national origin discrimination. The laws affect immigrants who recently arrived, even those with green cards or visas. National origin discrimination is prohibited in many settings, such as:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Housing

National origin discrimination also affects the languages employees may speak on the job.

This section discusses laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of national origin. We'll also discuss how to protect people who are denied their rights.

National Origin Discrimination in Employment: Overview

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on:

  • Race
  • Skin color
  • National origin

This section of the Civil Rights Act also prohibits discrimination against people with a relationship with someone of a particular national origin, race, or skin color.

Discrimination includes employment-related decisions based on:

  • Culture
  • Accent
  • Ethnicity
  • Actual country of origin

The act also prohibits policies that seem neutral but have a discriminatory effect.

Types of National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

The most common types of national origin discrimination found in the workplace include:


National origin harassment occurs when someone makes offensive and derogatory remarks about someone's:

  • Ethnicity
  • Accent
  • Skin color
  • Actual nation of origin

Thus creating a hostile work environment or resulting in an adverse employment decision.

Discrimination Based on Immigration Status

Employers may not hire, fire, or make other employment decisions based on an employee or applicant's immigration status.

Language Restrictions

Employers can restrict language to English only if it is necessary for business. Employers cannot make decisions based on an employee's accent or language unless it affects the job requirements.

Discrimination Against American Indians and Alaska Natives

American Indians and Alaska Natives identify with unique cultures that predate European colonization. National-origin anti-discrimination laws protect them. Many indigenous populations within the United States operate as separate nations. They have their own laws and customs.

This creates confusion since they have a similar status to dual citizenship. Generally, the same federal and state laws that protect other U.S. citizens also protect Native Americans and Native Alaskans. This includes laws against discrimination based on their indigenous status.

National Origin Discrimination Articles

Learn more about national origin discrimination and how to protect your rights.

  • National Origin Discrimination: A collection of articles and resources on national origin discrimination. Learn about national origin discrimination in settings, including employment, education, housing, and lending.
  • Racial Discrimination in Education: This section includes information on racial harassment in education. It covers the rights of students who speak limited English, federal regulations on race discrimination, and more.
  • Racial Discrimination in Employment: Resources on racial discrimination in the workplace. Learn about the Civil Rights Act of 1991, prohibited actions of employers, and more.
  • Immigrant Discrimination: Resources on the civil rights of immigrants and permanent residents. Learn about immigrants' rights to be free from discrimination.
  • Race Discrimination: Applicable Laws: Federal laws protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of race. This article provides links and information on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and more.
  • The Civil Rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives: Federal law prohibits discrimination against American Indians and Alaska natives in education, employment, credit, housing, and more. Learn about the statutes protecting the rights of American Indians and Alaska natives.

The EEOC and National Origin Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers resources to help individuals who face employment discrimination due to their national origin.

If you experience discrimination by your employer, contact the following agencies.

For Employers With 15 or More Employees

  • EEOC
  • Phone: (800) 669-4000

For Employers With 4 to 14 Employees

  • U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Office of Special Counsel
  • Phone: (800) 255-7688
  • Address: 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, 1425 Washington, D.C. 20530

Need Legal Advice? Contact a Civil Rights Attorney Today!

Knowing legal rights about national origin discrimination is important for employers and employees. Hiring a civil rights attorney can help you navigate legal claims you may face.

Visit FindLaw's Civil Rights section for additional information about civil rights topics.

Learn About National Origin Discrimination

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Was this helpful?

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options