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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Did You Know that Comments on Accent Aren't Automatically Discrimination? Business attorney Peter Lamont Explains

By: Peter J. Lamont, Esq.

Most employers are aware that national origin is one of the protected classes under federal and state discrimination laws.  But did you know that it is not discriminatory to ask someone who has an accent to clarify what they said or to inquire about his or her accent so long as it is not disrespectful or harassing? 

In a recent case: Park v. VA, et al., No. 14-1063, 3rd Cir., 2014, the plaintiff who was of Korean national origin and possessed an accent that was difficult to understand, claimed that one supervisor criticized her inability to say “odor” and “order” differently.  Plaintiff believed that in general her supervisor made light of her pronunciation efforts. She filed suit against the company and supervisor and alleged discrimination based upon national origin. 

The court disagreed, reasoning that a heavy accent may interfere with smooth communication and commenting on the accent isn’t discriminatory unless it’s pervasive, frequent and offensive. Thus, plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination. 

If you would like more information about this topic or have general legal questions, please feel free to contact me at (973)949-3770 or via email at plamont@peterlamontesq.com Offices in: New Jersey New York, Colorado & Puerto Rico and affiliated offices throughout the country.

© 2010-2015, Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont & Associates. This Update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between the firm and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. This Update may be considered attorney advertising in some states. Furthermore, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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