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Facts about National Origin Discrimination

Whether an employee's or job applicant's ancestry is Mexican, Ukrainian, Filipino, Arab, American Indian, or any other nationality, they are entitled to the same employment opportunities as anyone else. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the federal prohibition against national origin discrimination in employment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers employers with fifteen or more employees.

This article provides an overview of discrimination based on national origin. For more information, see FindLaw's complete coverage of Employment Discrimination.

Discrimination on the Basis of National Origin: Overview

It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant because of the individual's national origin. No one can be denied equal employment opportunity because of the birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group or accent. Equal employment opportunity cannot be denied because of marriage or association with persons of a national origin group, membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups, attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples, or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; or a surname associated with a national origin group. Examples of violations covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) include:

Employment Decisions Based on National Origin

Title VII prohibits any employment decision based on national origin. "Employment decisions" may include recruiting, hiring, or firing. Employers may not make these decisions using an individual's national origin as a factor in their decision.


Title VII prohibits offensive conduct, such as ethnic slurs, that creates a hostile work environment based on national origin. Employers are required to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment. Likewise, employees are responsible for reporting harassment at an early stage to prevent its escalation.


  • Accent discrimination — An employer may not base a decision on an employee's foreign accent unless the accent materially interferes with job performance.
  • English fluency – A fluency requirement is only permissible if required for the effective performance of the position for which it is imposed.
  • English-only rules – These rules may only be adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons. An English-only rule may be used if it is needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer's business.

Coverage of Foreign Nationals

Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination against individuals employed in the United States, regardless of citizenship. However, relief may be limited if an individual does not have the authorization to work. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers to prove that all employees hired after November 6, 1986, are legally authorized to work in the United States. IRCA also prohibits discrimination based on national origin or citizenship.

Get Legal Assistance with National Origin Discrimination

​If you have additional questions about national origin discrimination or need representation, consider speaking with an employment attorney.

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