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Immigrants' Employment Rights Under U.S. Anti-Discrimination Law

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This article provides information about immigrants' rights under U.S. anti-discrimination laws. This article is exerpted from an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pamphlet

What does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting employment discrimination and harassment because of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age (40 and over) and physical or mental disability. 

If you think that you have been discriminated against on the job or while applying for a job, you should contact the EEOC. The law has strict time limits for filing a charge of discrimination, and in some cases the EEOC will not have jurisdiction unless the charge is filed within 180 days of the occurrence of discrimination. Because of these filing limits, the EEOC suggests that you contact it as soon as the discrimination has occurred.

When a charge of discrimination is filed, the EEOC investigates to determine if the laws were violated. Call (800) 669-4000 for the nearest EEOC field office.

What is national origin discrimination?

The law protects people against employment discrimination on the basis of their national origin.

Some examples of what counts as employment discrimination based on national origin include discriminating against someone for their:

  • associaton with someone of a different national origin group (for example, by marriage)
  • accent,
  • language, or
  • appearance (including physical characteristics like height).

To learn more, see Immigrants' Employment Rights Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws.

Is harassment based on national origin illegal?

Yes, harassment based on national origin is illegal.

Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal, if the conduct:

  • is severe or pervasive,
    • and creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment;
  • interferes with work performance; or
  • negatively affects job opportunities.

Examples of potentially unlawful harassment—whether made by supervisors or by co-workers:

  • insults,
  • taunting,
  • ethnic epithets (such as mocking someone's accent, or saying, "Go back to where you came from.").

To learn more, see Immigrants' Employment Rights Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws.

Which employers must follow federal anti-discrimination law?

The following types of employers are bound by federal anti-discrimination laws if they have 15 or more employees (20 or more for age discrimination).

  • employment agencies,
  • unions,
  • employer-union apprentice programs, and 
  • local, state, and federal agencies.

To learn more, see Immigrants' Employment Rights Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws.


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