Discrimination on the basis of national origin is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the major federal antidiscrimination law. Employers subject to Title VII may not make employment decisions based on birthplace, ancestry, culture, native language, surname, or other characteristics that are closely associated with someone's country of origin.
Special rules apply to language requirements. The languages people are comfortable speaking, accents, and fluency are all closely related to national origin. At the same time, however, the law recognizes that an employer may have a legitimate need to make sure customers can understand employees and employees can speak to each other in a common language, for example.
This section explains national origin discrimination, including the special rules that apply to English-only restrictions and other language policies.