Beware national-origin bias charges following criticism of accent

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Do you have employees who were born and raised in other countries and who therefore speak English with heavy, foreign-sounding accents? If so, be careful how you approach any discussion about their speech. If supervisors or managers criticize workers’ accents, a national-origin discrimination lawsuit may be in your company’s future.

Simply put, firing (or refusing to hire) someone because of her accent may be national-origin discrimination.

It won’t help much to excuse the discharge or hiring rejection by painting the real reason as lack of communication, either. If the individual speaks English, her accent is irrelevant.

Recent case: Adesuwa was born and raised in Nigeria, but is a U.S. citizen. She speaks with a heavy accent. Adesuwa worked for Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse first as a store manager and then as a regional loss-prevention manager. Her job was to investigate thefts and audit stores for “shrinkage” caused ...(register to read more)

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