Title VII prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from employment practices that discriminate on the basis of national origin. The law protects applicants and employees regardless of citizenship status or work authorization. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) guidelines, unlawful employment action includes discrimination that is based on:
• An individual's place of origin or ancestor's place of origin
• The employer's perception that an individual is of a particular national origin
• Physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group
• Marriage to or association with persons, membership in organizations, or attendance at schools or churches associated with a national origin group
• A name or spouse's name associated with a national origin group
• Aptitude or other employment tests, unless such requirements are applied equally to all applicants and relate to successful job performance
• An accent or manner of speaking, unless there is a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the action
Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). It is permissible to make employment decisions based on national origin or citizenship based on a BFOQ that is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation” of a business. Under regulations issued by the EEOC, a BFOQ based on national origin will be interpreted very narrowly. Because BFOQ situations are extremely rare, employers should be very cautious in relying on such a defense when making employment decisions.
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