- A manufacturing staffing company allegedly violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it refused to refer a naturalized citizen for employment with a government contractor because she was born in Germany and not the U.S., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit (EEOC v. Employbridge of Dallas, Inc. d/b/a ResourceMFG, No. 22-499 (W.D. Okla. June 17, 2022)).
- During a walk-in interview in February 2020, a woman met with a ResourceMFG recruiter at the company’s Oklahoma City office, according to the lawsuit. The recruiter told her she would be a good fit for a temp-to-hire job with XPO Logistics, a government contractor. She completed paperwork for a first-shift warehouse position, and the recruiter told her to produce identification and other necessary documents, including her U.S. birth certificate, the EEOC alleged. The woman explained that as a naturalized citizen who was born in Germany, she didn’t have a U.S. birth certificate but did have documents to show she is a U.S. citizen. The recruiter told her she wasn’t qualified for the job because she was born in Germany and sent her home, according to the complaint.
- Based on ResourceMFG’s alleged actions, the EEOC sued the company for national origin discrimination. Pursuant to its government contract, XPO required temporary and permanent employees to be U.S. citizens but not that they be born in the U.S., the lawsuit said. “Staffing companies providing workers to government contractors cannot add additional requirements, such as U.S. birth certificates, to their selection process,” Andrea G. Baran, an EEOC regional attorney, stated in a release. ResourceMFG did not respond to a request for a statement before press time.
National origin discrimination under Title VII occurs when an employer discriminates against an individual because they are from a certain country or a geographic region that is closely associated with a particular national origin or ethnic group, according to an EEOC guidance. Discrimination can occur in a variety of ways. For example, subjecting an individual to an adverse action because of an accent could be national origin discrimination based on a linguistic characteristic, the guidance explains.
National origin discrimination can also overlap with other Title VII protected classes. It allegedly did so in an earlier EEOC lawsuit against JBS Swift & Co.; the company agreed to pay $5.5 million last year to settle the case, HR Dive reported. The EEOC had alleged that JBS Swift discriminated against employees at a beef processing plant in Colorado because they were Muslim, immigrants from Somalia and Black. Among other things, Muslim employees were allegedly denied the ability to pray and Somali employees were routinely called offensive names because of their race, religion and national origin, the EEOC said.
English-only policies can be a form of national origin discrimination, particularly blanket rules requiring employees to speak English at all times, even during their breaks and personal time. Before adopting an English-only policy, employers should consider their business needs and draft a policy that is narrowly tailored to meet these needs, an attorney previously told HR Dive. Business necessity can include communicating with customers, co-workers or supervisors who speak only English, or for emergencies or situations where a common language will promote safety or efficiency, or enable supervisors who only speak English to monitor the performance of employees whose jobs require them to communicate with co-workers or customers.
Citizenship requirements can also violate Title VII if they have the effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin, the EEOC guidance pointed out. It highlighted a similar lawsuit from the past: The EEOC sued a staffing agency and a subcontractor for national origin discrimination after they refused to let a Guatemalan-born naturalized U.S. citizen work on a project involving a nuclear facility. The companies agreed to pay $42,500 to settle the case. According to the EEOC, the project required anyone working on it to be a U.S. citizen. A manager for the subcontractor allegedly asked the naturalized citizen to produce a U.S. birth certificate to establish citizenship. When she produced a U.S. passport, the manager allegedly told her she couldn’t continue working on the project because she wasn’t born in the U.S.
Beyond Title VII, the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin or citizenship status during the employment verification process. The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Immigration and Employee Rights Section enforces this provision. It prohibits employers from engaging in unfair documentary practices, such as asking for specific or more or different documents than are required to verify employment eligibility, with the intent to discriminate on the basis of citizenship status or national origin, the EEOC guidance states.