Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of national origin (as well as race, color, religion and sex). It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant because of birthplace, ancestry, culture or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group; membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups; attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; or a surname associated with a national origin group.
“English Only” rules violate Title VII unless an employer can show that requiring employees to speak English on the job at all times is critical for conducting business, and the employees must be told when they must speak English and the consequences for violating the rule.
Requiring applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and it is not related to job performance. An employer must show a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the denial of employment opportunity because of an individual’s accent or manner of speaking. Investigations focus on whether the accent or manner of speaking have a detrimental effect on job performance.
Harassment on the basis of national origin also is a violation of Title VII. Employers can be liable for harassment by agents and supervisors even if the acts were unauthorized or expressly forbidden; under certain circumstances, the employer may be liable for workplace harassment by non-employees.
Under federal law, employees must provide to their employers the information required on I-9 forms, and employers must verify the employee’s eligibility to work in the United States. Employers cannot discriminate by having only certain groups provide this information – all employees are required to prove that they are legally authorized to work in the United States.