Accent Discrimination in the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ( is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants or employees because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.  This organization is commonly abbreviated as EEOC.  The EEOC includes accent bias in its definition of employment discrimination on the basis of national origin.  If someone would render an employment decision based on a foreign accent violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unless it “materially interferes” with the applicant’s/employee’s ability to perform the duties of the job.  Due to linguistic characteristics being a component of national origin, employers should carefully consider their decisions that are based on accent to ensure that they are not violating Title VII

It’s important to reiterate, that an employment decision based on a foreign accent doesn’t violate Title VII if an individual’s accent materially interferes with the person’s ability to perform job duties.  This assessment depends on the specific duties of the individual in question and the extent to which the individual’s accent truly affects his or her ability to perform job duties.  Employers must be careful to distinguish between discernible foreign accent that doesn’t interfere with communication skills and one that does interfere with communication skills to such a degree that it prevents them from performing the job properly.

Do or someone you know feel believe you’ve been discriminated against because of your accent?