On Monday the Department of Justice issued a guidance (PDF) to address U.S. residents who’ve let Ebola panic fuel discriminatory acts against African people. “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has led to increased reports of discrimination in the United States against people who are or are perceived to be from an African country or of African descent, as well as against those perceived as having Ebola,” the guidance’s opening lines read. Such actions are illegal, the federal government warns.

When racialized fear informs decisions that limit people’s access to housing, employment, education and other services, the federal government warns, people could be infringing on others’ civil rights. Racial discrimination and harassment, such as requiring a child of African descent who hasn’t been asked by health authorities to stay away from school or refusing to offer disaster relief to someone who is or might be perceived to be from an African country, is not only illegal, the Justice Department says, it discourages those who might have actual symptoms from coming forward.

“Both science and the law must lead our efforts to ensure that unfounded fear and/or prejudice do not limit access” to jobs, housing and education, the Justice Department’s statement read.

(h/t Huffington Post)