The Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released new guidance addressing national origin discrimination in the workplace. Immigration and diversity issues are a center focus of the presidential campaigns, leading many to predict an increase in national origin discrimination filings in the near future. In response to the spotlight on those issues, the EEOC released guidance to further clarify their existing position on national origin discrimination.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • As long as an employee can communicate English effectively, employers may not discriminate against employees because of an accent, unless the accent materially interferes with his or her job performance. Ensure that your language policies do not require a greater level of English than necessary for the job duties.
  • Discrimination based on the combination of any Title VII protected characteristics is “intersectional discrimination.” For example, the EEOC could bring charges against an employer that discriminated against Asian men, even if there is no evidence of discrimination against Asian women or non-Asian men. Mistaken perception of an individual’s national origin is not a defense.
  • Employers should make sure they have clear hiring, firing and harassment policies that prohibit discrimination based on national origin.

Approximately one of out every 10 EEOC charges filed nationwide alleged national origin discrimination. Employers must maintain proper policies and procedures to avoid costly Title VII charges. Contact your attorney for more advice on how this relates to your organization.

Taft law clerk Devin Spencer contributed to this article.