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Frustration with accent doesn’t constitute bias

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Employees who sue their employers over alleged national-origin discrimination have to do more than show that their employer was frustrated with the employee’s inability to communicate.

Recent case: Gregorio Distajo, who is of Filipino descent, worked for eight years for PNC Bank as a teller supervisor. Then several night deposit bags went missing on his shifts. They eventually turned up, but gift checks that had been in the bags were gone.

A teller admitted taking the checks, but implied Distajo’s security had been lax. When PNC looked into the matter, the investigator complained that Distajo was hard to understand. Distajo was fired and sued for national-origin bias.

The court threw out his case because it was based on his perception that the investigator was upset at his accent. That’s not nearly enough to jump to the conclusion that Distajo was fired for being Filipino. (Distajo v. PNC, ED PA, 2009)

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