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An Enforcement Guidance and a fact sheet regarding national origin discrimination were released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Nov. 18, 2016. While it is not legally binding, the Enforcement Guidance gives employers in California and the rest of the country a better understanding of the investigative and enforcement priorities of the EEOC. It also provides instances of workplace behavior that the EEOC may view as violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Under Title VII, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an individual because the individual, or his or her ancestor, is from a specific place and has the cultural, physical or linguistic traits of a specific national origin group. It is forbidden throughout each phase of the employment life cycle, including recruitment, interviewing, training, promotion, employee pay and discharge or termination. Almost 11 percent of the private sector claims filed with the EEOC each year are based upon national origin.

In the Enforcement Guidance, many examples of national origin discrimination scenarios are discussed. Employers are cautioned about intersectional discrimination, or discrimination that targets an employee because of his or her multiple protected classes, such as national origin and race, or gender and national origin. Human trafficking is also addressed, and it is noted that exploiting workers from other countries may not only be illegal in a criminal sense, it may also violate Title VII if the action targets an individual or group because of their national origin.

National origin is just one form of workplace discrimination that is covered by Title VII. An attorney can often be of assistance to people who feel that they have been unfairly targeted due to being members of other classes protected by that federal law.

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