EEOC Issues New Guidance to Help Employers Prevent National Origin Discrimination

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 2015, about eleven percent of the 89,385 charges of discrimination filed alleged national origin discrimination.  National origin discrimination is discrimination because an individual is from a certain place or shares the physical, cultural, or language characteristics of a national origin or ethnic group.

On November 21, 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued updated enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination and retaliation.  This new guidance replaces its 2002 compliance manual section on national origin discrimination.

The guidance sets out the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, developments in the law since 2002, and explains how federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations apply to specific workplace situations.  It also highlights “promising practices” for employers to prevent discrimination.   The practices include:

  1. Use a variety of different recruitment methods. According to the EEOC, word-of-mouth recruiting can magnify existing ethnic, racial, or religious homogeneity in the workplace.  Using a variety of recruitment methods, such as job fairs, open houses, and public job announcements, may attract a more diverse pool of applicants.
  2. Establish objective written criteria for evaluating candidates for hiring, promotion, and assignments. The criteria should be communicated to prospective candidates and applied consistently to all candidates.
  3. Develop objective, job-related criteria for identifying unsatisfactory performance or conduct that can result in discipline, demotion, or discharge. For example, an employer could establish a progressive discipline policy to correct employee misconduct, with standards and performance expectations.
  4. Clearly communicate policies prohibiting harassment. Anti-discrimination and harassment policies should be shared with all employees, including temporary and contract workers.  Employees should also be made aware of procedures for addressing complaints of harassment and discrimination.  Employers should consider translating all of these policies into the language used by employees with limited English skills.

The new guidance is must reading for school administrators and human resources personnel.  For more on this topic, the EEOC also issued a question and answer publication  and a small business fact sheet that highlight the major points in the guidance.


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