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Could this be considered discrimination?

Question: An employee says their manager told them to lose their accent if they ever want to be promoted. Could this be considered discrimination?

Answer from Kim, SPHR, SHRM-SCP: Yes. Discrimination based on national origin is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and includes treating applicants or employees unfavorably because they are from a particular country or region of the world, speak with an accent, or appear to be of a certain ethnic background. Even if the manager didn’t follow through on the lack of promotion, ongoing comments from the manager about the employee’s accent could also be considered harassment. We recommend that you take this situation seriously and investigate it immediately.

While there are some limited circumstances where an employee’s accent might be legitimately and legally career-limiting, these are few and far between. Usually customers, coworkers, and managers just need to exercise patience and seek clarification.

For more information about national origin discrimination, see the harassment page on the platform.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

Kim is a results-driven HR Professional with experience from diverse industries, including but not limited to, transportation, environmental services, staffing, pharmaceutical, market research, banking, retail, software development and education non-profit. In her spare time, Kim enjoys the beautiful view from her home and being with her husband and their German shepherd, Fin.

Legal Disclaimer: On-Time Payroll is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this post should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. On-Time Payroll cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.


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