On February 3, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it has sued a Greenville, South Carolina employer and its temporary employment agency for national origin discrimination under Title VII. The suit alleges that the employer terminated a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guatemala after she was unable to comply with a request from the employer that she produce a U.S. birth certificate.
The employer provides services to the nuclear power industry, and the EEOC claims that the request for the birth certificate was based on a misreading of Department of Energy rules that requires certain employees to be U.S. citizens. The EEOC alleges that the employer erred by not accepting alternative documentation that would also have demonstrated citizenship. While citizenship is not a specific protected category under Title VII, proof of citizenship requirements can have a discriminatory effect based on national origin.
The plaintiff in this case was actually employed by a temporary employment agency used by the nuclear contractor. Under Title VII, both the temp agency and the company using its services are considered employers, and are jointly liable for discriminatory actions by either defendant.