EEOC updates bias guidelines with input from LAS-ELC and coalition

The EEOC has issued the long-awaited final revision of its guidance on national origin discrimination, updating policies to address emerging issues in the workplace. At the urging national coalition of civil rights groups organized by LAS-ELC, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accepted extensive input from advocates who work with people—particularly recent immigrants—who have faced discrimination related either to their or their family’s country of origin or to personal characteristics closely linked to a place of origin.

The Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination the EEOC issued Nov. 21 address such issues as retaliation against undocumented workers, “speak-English-only” policies, human trafficking, and bias against employees of the Muslim faith. It’s available here on the EEOC’s website.

The culmination of a four-year effort by LAS-ELC and its partners, the updated guidance is notable for the many ways the EEOC clarified and strengthened its positions on how Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from employer practices that discriminate against employees based on their national origin. Among other things, it reaffirms that “speak-English-only” rules can be presumed to harm those workers and must be struck down—unless the employer can demonstrate objectively and factually that they are necessary. The guidance emphasizes that such rules cannot be justified simply in response to the preferences of co-workers or customers to hear only English spoken.

The guidance establishes that an employer’s threat to report a worker’s lack of employment authorization to immigration authorities may constitute unlawful retaliation for the worker’s assertion of the right to be free from discrimination. The guidance cautions employers against hiring practices based on applicants’ Social Security numbers that may particularly disadvantage immigrant workers. It points out how labor trafficking may be intertwined with discrimination. And it provides that discrimination against persons who are—or who are perceived to be—of the Muslim religion constitutes “national origin discrimination.”

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