The United States is the great melting pot, comprised of talented individuals from around the globe. If you have landed your dream job, though, you may worry about your accent. After all, you may not sound anything like the rest of your coworkers or managers.
English may not be your first language. Still, you may have worked hard to learn how to communicate fluently in English. Dropping your accent, though, likely presents a much larger problem. If your employer uses your accent as a reason to treat you differently in the workplace, you may be the subject of discrimination.
National origin discrimination
The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prevents your employer from using your national origin to discriminate against you. While your accent is not exactly your national origin, it is likely a characteristic of individuals from your part of the world. Accordingly, if your employer mistreats you because you speak differently, you may have a valid discrimination claim.
While your manager may not be able to use your accent to discriminate against you, he or she may consider the way you speak under certain circumstances. For example, if you cannot communicate effectively, your boss may not ask you to perform customer service. Still, your employer’s actions must be specific and legally valid. That is, your boss cannot make employment decisions simply because you have an accent if you can otherwise perform your job duties.
If you speak up about workplace discrimination, your employer may not retaliate against you. Retaliation occurs when your boss punishes you for asserting your legal rights. Some types of retaliation are immediately evident. For example, your boss may fire you for filing a discrimination claim. Others, though, are harder to identify. Nonetheless, if your employer begins to treat you differently after complaining about workplace discrimination, he or she may engage in retaliation against you.
You have worked hard to get where you are in life. If you have an accent, your employer probably cannot use it against you. By understanding your legal rights, you can likely better advocate for yourself and your career.