Regulations last checked for updates: May 29, 2020

Title 29 - Labor last revised: May 27, 2020
§ 1606.1 - Definition of national origin discrimination.

The Commission defines national origin discrimination broadly as including, but not limited to, the denial of equal employment opportunity because of an individual's, or his or her ancestor's, place of origin; or because an individual has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group. The Commission will examine with particular concern charges alleging that individuals within the jurisdiction of the Commission have been denied equal employment opportunity for reasons which are grounded in national origin considerations, such as (a) marriage to or association with persons of a national origin group; (b) membership in, or association with an organization identified with or seeking to promote the interests of national origin groups; (c) attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques, generally used by persons of a national origin group; and (d) because an individual's name or spouse's name is associated with a national origin group. In examining these charges for unlawful national origin discrimination, the Commission will apply general title VII principles, such as disparate treatment and adverse impact.

§ 1606.2 - Scope of title VII protection.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The title VII principles of disparate treatment and adverse impact equally apply to national origin discrimination. These Guidelines apply to all entities covered by title VII (collectively referred to as “employer”).

§ 1606.3 - The national security exception.

It is not an unlawful employment practice to deny employment opportunities to any individual who does not fulfill the national security requirements stated in section 703(g) of title VII. 1

1 See also, 5 U.S.C. 7532,for.

§ 1606.4 - The bona fide occupational qualification exception.

The exception stated in section 703(e) of title VII, that national origin may be a bona fide occupational qualification, shall be strictly construed.

§ 1606.5 - Citizenship requirements.

(a) In those circumstances, where citizenship requirements have the purpose or effect of discriminating against an individual on the basis of national origin, they are prohibited by title VII. 2

2 See Espinoza v. Farah Mfg. Co., Inc., 414 U.S. 86, 92 (1973). See also, E.O. 11935, 5 CFR 7.4; and 31 U.S.C. 699(b), for citizenship requirements in certain Federal employment.

(b) Some State laws prohibit the employment of non-citizens. Where these laws are in conflict with title VII, they are superseded under section 708 of the title.

§ 1606.6 - Selection procedures.

(a)(1) In investigating an employer's selection procedures (including those identified below) for adverse impact on the basis of national origin, the Commission will apply the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP), 29 CFR part 1607. Employers and other users of selection procedures should refer to the UGESP for guidance on matters, such as adverse impact, validation and recordkeeping requirements for national origin groups.

(2) Because height or weight requirements tend to exclude individuals on the basis of national origin, 3 the user is expected to evaluate these selection procedures for adverse impact, regardless of whether the total selection process has an adverse impact based on national origin. Therefore, height or weight requirements are identified here, as they are in the UGESP, 4 as exceptions to the “bottom line” concept.

3 See CD 71-1529 (1971), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6231, 3 FEP Cases 952; CD 71-1418 (1971), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6223, 3 FEP Cases 580; CD 74-25 (1973), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6400, 10 FEP Cases 260. Davis v. County of Los Angeles, 566 F. 2d 1334, 1341-42 (9th Cir., 1977) vacated and remanded as moot on other grounds, 440 U.S. 625 (1979). See also, Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U.S. 321 (1977).

4 See section 4C(2) of the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, 29 CFR 1607.4C(2).

(b) The Commission has found that the use of the following selection procedures may be discriminatory on the basis of national origin. Therefore, it will carefully investigate charges involving these selection procedures for both disparate treatment and adverse impact on the basis of national origin. However, the Commission does not consider these to be exceptions to the “bottom line” concept:

(1) Fluency-in-English requirements, such as denying employment opportunities because of an individual's foreign accent, 5 or inability to communicate well in English. 6

5 See CD AL68-1-155E (1969), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6008, 1 FEP Cases 921.

6 See CD YAU9-048 (1969), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6054, 2 FEP Cases 78.

(2) Training or education requirements which deny employment opportunities to an individual because of his or her foreign training or education, or which require an individual to be foreign trained or educated.

§ 1606.7 - Speak-English-only rules.

(a) When applied at all times. A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times in the workplace is a burdensome term and condition of employment. The primary language of an individual is often an essential national origin characteristic. Prohibiting employees at all times, in the workplace, from speaking their primary language or the language they speak most comfortably, disadvantages an individual's employment opportunities on the basis of national origin. It may also create an atmosphere of inferiority, isolation and intimidation based on national origin which could result in a discriminatory working environment. 7 Therefore, the Commission will presume that such a rule violates title VII and will closely scrutinize it.

7 See CD 71-446 (1970), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6173, 2 FEP Cases, 1127; CD 72-0281 (1971), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6293.

(b) When applied only at certain times. An employer may have a rule requiring that employees speak only in English at certain times where the employer can show that the rule is justified by business necessity.

(c) Notice of the rule. It is common for individuals whose primary language is not English to inadvertently change from speaking English to speaking their primary language. Therefore, if an employer believes it has a business necessity for a speak-English-only rule at certain times, the employer should inform its employees of the general circumstances when speaking only in English is required and of the consequences of violating the rule. If an employer fails to effectively notify its employees of the rule and makes an adverse employment decision against an individual based on a violation of the rule, the Commission will consider the employer's application of the rule as evidence of discrimination on the basis of national origin.

§ 1606.8 - Harassment.

(a) The Commission has consistently held that harassment on the basis of national origin is a violation of title VII. An employer has an affirmative duty to maintain a working environment free of harassment on the basis of national origin. 8

8 See CD CL68-12-431 EU (1969), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6085, 2 FEP Cases 295; CD 72-0621 (1971), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6311, 4 FEP Cases 312; CD 72-1561 (1972), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6354, 4 FEP Cases 852; CD 74-05 (1973), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6387, 6 FEP Cases 834; CD 76-41 (1975), CCH EEOC Decisions ¶ 6632. See also, Amendment to Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex, § 1604.11(a) n. 1, 45 FR 7476 sy 74677 (November 10, 1980).

(b) Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct relating to an individual's national origin constitute harassment when this conduct:

(1) Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment;

(2) Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance; or

(3) Otherwise adversely affects an individual's employment opportunities.

(c) [Reserved]

(d) With respect to conduct between fellow employees, an employer is responsible for acts of harassment in the workplace on the basis of national origin, where the employer, its agents or supervisory employees, knows or should have known of the conduct, unless the employer can show that it took immediate and appropriate corrective action.

(e) An employer may also be responsible for the acts of non-employees with respect to harassment of employees in the workplace on the basis of national origin, where the employer, its agents or supervisory employees, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. In reviewing these cases, the Commission will consider the extent of the employer's control and any other legal responsibility which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of such non-employees.

Appendix A to § 1606.8 - Background Information

The Commission has rescinded § 1606.8(c) of the Guidelines on National Origin Harassment, which set forth the standard of employer liability for harassment by supervisors. That section is no longer valid, in light of the Supreme Court decisions in Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998), and Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998). The Commission has issued a policy document that examines the Faragher and Ellerth decisions and provides detailed guidance on the issue of vicarious liability for harassment by supervisors. EEOC Enforcement Guidance: Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors (6/18/99), EEOC Compliance Manual (BNA), N:4075 [Binder 3]; also available through EEOC's web site, at, or by calling the EEOC Publications Distribution Center, at 1-800-669-3362 (voice), 1-800-800-3302 (TTY).

[45 FR 85635, Dec. 29, 1980, as amended at 64 FR 58334, Oct. 29, 1999]
authority: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e
source: 45 FR 85635, Dec. 29, 1980, unless otherwise noted.
cite as: 29 CFR 1606.1