Recognizing language discrimination in the workplace

Recognizing language discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2023 | Discrimination

The U.S. workplace has become diverse in the past few years. With the country issuing hundreds of thousands of immigrant visas per year, more foreigners get to work together with natural-born citizens.

However, despite the progress in diversity, nonnative speakers still face language discrimination in the workplace. Some acts of discrimination may be subtle and could go undetected. It is essential to recognize language discrimination to prevent creating a hostile environment for nonnative speakers. Moreover, this can remove any doubts as to what could fall under discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

English-only policy

If an employer instructs all employees to speak only English in the workplace, even during casual conversations, while fully knowing there is a nonnative employee, there is language discrimination. This is apparent if it shows that the policy is unnecessary for the employees to perform their duties.

However, there are a few justifications for this, such as the need to communicate with an English-speaking customer or in case of emergencies.

Issue with accents

While many immigrants have adopted the typical American accent, others, whether by choice or circumstance, continue to speak in their native accents. There is language discrimination if employers treat applicants and employees differently because of their accents.

Know what protects your rights

Federal, state and local laws protect all employees from language discrimination. While the law does not explicitly mention language, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on national origin, which extends to an individual’s linguistic characteristics.

If someone from your workplace continuously discriminates against you, remedies are available for you, including filing a report with your local employment agency or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and seeking compensation for damages suffered.