On June 2, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released, for a 30-day public input period, proposed enforcement guidance addressing national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). The EEOC last comprehensively addressed national origin discrimination in 2002, and the revised guidance addresses important issues and significant legal developments that have occurred since that time.

Title VII protects individuals from employment discrimination (as well as retaliation) based on their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII prohibits employers from treating individuals unfavorably because of their national origin, including because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background. As approximately 11% of the 89,385 private sector charges filed with the EEOC in FY 2015 allege national origin discrimination, the EEOC aims to express official agency policy and explain how the laws and regulations apply to specific workplace situations involving national origin discrimination.

The proposed enforcement guidance addresses broad general issues concerning employment decisions (e.g., recruitment, hiring, promotion, discipline) and harassment (e.g., hostile work environment, employer liability, human trafficking). Additionally, the proposed enforcement guidance addresses in detail workplace issues relating to different languages (e.g., accent discrimination, fluency requirements, English-only rules) and citizenships. The EEOC also suggests “best practices” that employers may adopt to promote equality of opportunity and to reduce the risk of Title VII violations based on national origin discrimination.

The 30-day input period ends on July 1, 2016. After reviewing the submitted public input, the EEOC will consider revisions to the draft guidance before finalizing it. The final guidance would replace the existing EEOC Compliance Manual, Volume II, Section 13: National Origin Discrimination issued in December 2002. Littler will continue to monitor developments on the proposed enforcement guidance.