[lg policy] Worker ’s Language as Basis of National Origin Discrimination

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 14:52:47 UTC 2010

Worker’s Language as Basis of National Origin Discrimination

By Mesriani_Law_Group |

One of the most specific protections given by Article VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 in regards to a worker’s national origin is the
prohibition of discrimination and harassment based on the person’s
language.A lot of California’s workforce, particularly in LA, is made
up of good people, who were not born in the US and this may result in
a difference in cultural characteristics and beliefs, ethnicity, and
linguistic characteristics. The differences in linguistic
characteristics have been the basis of many discriminatory acts done
by employers to immigrant workers. It could be a simple mockery of the
worker’s way of speaking or even an unjust language policy within the

As a result, this led to many national discrimination cases in LA. To
help you understand more, here are some of the most common national
discrimination cases based on a worker’s language:

•Harassment due to Accent

A foreign worker usually carries with him a distinct accent that
identifies his country of origin.

This accent, unfortunately, is also the easiest way to mock the said worker.

Although the occasional ribbing and joking is not illegal, it can
still go too far.

If the mocking of the worker’s accent already creates a hostile
working environment, then it may be considered national origin
harassment as well.

•English Fluency Discrimination

Since English is just the secondary language of foreign workers, it
should be understandable that they are not as adept in the language as
the rest of the workers.

If the employer uses the worker’s fluency in American English as the
basis for employment decisions then this can be considered as national
origin discrimination.

•English Only Policy
Some employers also use English-only policies to eliminate undesirable
foreign employees in the workplace.

Those who are not able to follow the policies are unable to keep their jobs.

However, implementing English-only policies may be a violation of
national origin discrimination laws

Exemptions Regarding Linguistic Characteristics

There are instances where the employer can be allowed to use the
worker’s linguistic characteristics to make employment decisions such

•If the accent significantly interferes with job performance

•If English fluency is essential for the effective performance of the position

•English only policies are only acceptable if promoting safe and
efficient operations of the business.

Consult an employment law attorney for more information.


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