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EEOC: National origin discrimination claims on the rise

The U.S. is often described as The Great Melting Pot. The American identity is a mosaic made up of elements of many unique cultures that combine to create our own unique profile. It would be hard to imagine Detroit, for example, without the European, Middle Eastern and Southern U.S. immigrants who came here to work in the automobile industry.

Sadly, not everyone is properly accepting of people from different backgrounds. Last year, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, some 11,800 complaints regarding discrimination based on national origin were lodged with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

That number represents a 76 percent increase from 1997. Authorities believe that as our workplaces become more diverse and people become more aware that this kind of discrimination is impermissible, the number of this type of complain will continue to ruse.

It seems that many of the complaints alleging discrimination based on national origin were based on workers' accents. In the U.S., workplaces can enforce English-only rules when it is "crucial" to the performance of a job. Of course, what constitutes "crucial" may not be easy to determine. Some examples provided by the EEOC, however, seem to demonstrate examples of discrimination, such as:

•· The Utah truck driver who claims he was fired for having a thick Russian accent.

•· The Arizona hotel worker whose supervisors did nothing to stop his colleagues from mocking his Iranian accent.

•· The Filipino employees of a California hospital who were told they could not speak their native language to each other while at work.

What we want you to understand is that just because everyone ought to be reasonably tolerant and accepting of others does not mean that everyone actually displays such open-mindedness. If someone's biases or prejudices against you, your ethnicity, your sexual orientation, your gender or your age start to negatively impact you at work, you could consider discussing the matter with an employment law attorney. That discussion may give you a better sense of your rights.

Source: Insurance Journal, "More Workers Claiming Job Discrimination Over Language, Accents," Paul Foy, Dec. 4, 2012

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