Language and Accent Discrimination in the Workplace | Mann & Elias
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Language and Accent Discrimination in the Workplace


America is known as a nation of immigrants. Rightly so. Mostly everyone is from somewhere else. The continent now known as North America has had waves of migration since the first European settlers came to it in the 15th century. The birth of the United States of America in the 18th century did not stop this trend. People kept coming or were forcibly shipped from Europe, Asia, and Africa. And while the most barbaric and inhumane form of forced migration –the Atlantic slave trade—no longer exists, people from all over the world continue to migrate to the country voluntarily or are forced to flee to it because of violence and instability in their home countries.

If you are not a native-born American citizen, if English is not your native tongue, then you may speak the language with an accent. That is okay. You are part of a long tradition of immigrants who have spoken English the same way. You should not be punished or penalized for this. And it is against the law for your employer to fire or demote you or deny you an opportunity for advancement for the way you speak English.

If you believe you have been mistreated in the workplace because of the way you speak English, then you should hold your employer accountable. Hiring an employment attorney in Los Angeles can help you do so. Discriminating against someone because of the way they speak English is a form of racism, and racial profiling and racism lawyers in Los Angeles can help you get justice.

When English Fluency is Required

There are some jobs that require people who can speak clear and fluent English. Such requirements are strictly examined by courts. However, such jobs tend to rule out even native speakers who do not have the verbal skills to do them.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that reviews and interprets English fluency requirements. The amount of fluency that a company can reasonably require will vary from job to job. The agency has ruled that there can be no blanket fluency requirements, and that an employee cannot be fired or denied promotion because of the way they speak English.

No Blanket English-Only Rules

There are many ways of belittling, demoralizing, and punishing non-native speakers of English in the workplace. Establishing an English-only policy while they are on the job is one of them. These rules are often promulgated with discriminatory intent. And if there is good reason to think that such a policy is meant to get rid of non-English speaking workers or discouraging others from applying, it should be challenged.

There may be some instances in which workers are required to speak only English. For example, if you work as a server or in some other customer-facing position in a restaurant, it is perfectly reasonable for your employer to maintain English-only rules. This can be seen as a necessary part of making the dining experience of customers pleasing and comfortable.

However, an employer cannot establish such a rule for people who work in warehouses, construction sites, or other manual labor jobs. The only exception to this is when workers who speak various languages must work together. And even in this case, the rule must be specifically tailored to address the needs of the workplace. An employer cannot forbid the speaking of another language on lunch or coffee breaks, for example.

Accent Discrimination

Accents are closely associated with national origin. If you have been denied employment or advancement because of your accent, it may actually be a subtle way of getting rid of you because of your national origin. Courts examine carefully the hiring and promotion decisions of a company based on accent. Any company that maintains such a rule may be trying to discriminate against immigrants on the sly.

If you work in a position that requires you to speak clear English and your accent does not affect your ability to articulate words and sounds effectively, then you should not be denied the chance to do the job. An employer cannot adopt a blanket rule that no employee with an accent can work in a customer service job.

How to Respond to Discrimination

Dealing with discrimination is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Your hard work, talent, skill, and knowledge should be rewarded with a fair and unbiased assessment of your qualifications to fill a certain position. You should not be reduced to being a foreigner or someone with a funny accent. It is insulting and degrading, and you should stand up for yourself if you are discriminated against.

You would prefer not to confront the matter at all. Having to present yourself as a victim of such discrimination is itself humiliating. However, if you do not respond to racism, you will not be able to be as productive as you should be and the perpetrators of the wrongdoing will mistreat others like you.

In responding to discrimination, you must rely on what you know about your employer and your colleagues. If you believe you can raise your concerns with a trusted colleague or supervisor, then you should do so. If you believe that trying to settle the matter informally will only make things worse for you, then you should lodge a formal complaint. If your complaint is ignored or not resolved to your satisfaction, then you should hire a workplace lawyer in LA and prepare to take legal action.

Figuring Out the Best Course of Legal Action

You need a lawyer after experiencing racism on the job because you will not be familiar with the subtleties of law regarding your situation. You also need an attorney for workplace discrimination based on race to figure out the best course of legal action.

Sitting down with a workplace racism lawyer will help you determine your options. Los Angeles racial discrimination lawyers are all about getting concrete outcomes in lawsuits. You may be eligible for compensation for the way that you have been treated. Or, you may want to be reinstated or have the company issue you an apology. The Los Angeles racist discrimination lawyers working your case can help you get these solutions. You should put your case in the hands of the right racial profiling attorneys in Los Angeles.


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