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Litigation, P.C. Law Firm
Los Angeles Litigation Law Firm 424-284-2401

Is Accent Discrimination Legal?


If the cultural and linguistic diversity of Los Angeles disappeared, it would be a shadow of its former self.  According to a 2019 report by World Population Review, 224 languages are spoken in Los Angeles.  This means that a large portion of workers in the Los Angeles area speak more than one language in the course of a workday.  Perhaps your skills in one or more languages other than your native language have improved because of jobs you have held in or near Los Angeles, even the most skilled non-native speakers tend to retain features of pronunciation that mark their speech as non-native; in other words, they speak with a foreign accent.  Whether someone else’s accent is difficult to understand is a subjective measure.  Whether it is legal to discriminate against employees and job candidates because of their accent is less clear cut than whether it is legal to discriminate based on other characteristics.  If your employer has been complaining about your English pronunciation, but you think that your employee is just singling you out because of your national origin, contact a Los Angeles nationality discrimination lawyer.

Does the Employee’s Accent Interfere With His or Her Ability to Perform the Essential Job Functions?

A certain degree of proficiency in a certain language is a prerequisite for many jobs.  Some jobs even require a language proficiency test as part of the applicant screening process.  If you can communicate adequately with your coworkers and customers, according to the requirements of your job description, then your employer cannot discriminate against you for speaking with a foreign accent.  Unfortunately, there is no universal metric for determining how well others must understand you and how understandable your speech is by the standards of those you are speaking to.  If you think that your employer is being unfair to you about your accent, you should consult an employment lawyer.

Accent Is Not a Protected Characteristic, but Ethnicity and National Origin Are

In many cases of accent discrimination, the employee’s accent is just an excuse.  Customers and coworkers have no trouble understanding the employee when he or she speaks, but the employer is discriminating against the employee based on personal characteristics that relate in some way to the employee’s linguistic background, such as the employee’s ethnic background or country of origin.  Ethnicity and national origin are protected characteristics, and federal and state laws are unambiguous about the fact that it is against the law for employers to discriminate against employees based on them.  If your employer’s criticisms of your accent are part of a pattern of antagonist behavior toward you, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and they will initiate an investigation into discrimination at your workplace.

Speak With a Los Angeles Employment Discrimination Lawyer

A Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer can help you if you are experiencing discrimination based on your accent, native language, ethnic background, or country of origin.  Contact Litigation, P.C. in Los Angeles, California to discuss your situation or call (424)284-2401.


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