Fisher Taubenfeld LLP

Comments about an accent could be discriminatory

New York workers who are teased about their age or accent could be victims of discrimination. One woman who worked at a California hospital said in a lawsuit that her supervisor constantly made comments about herself and the Filipino unit coordinators who worked there. The department director told her and the other workers of Filipino descent to go back to school to learn how to speak and write better in English.

Another employee said that the director made comments about how she wanted to terminate the woman and other Filipino nurses because they were too old. The director also allegedly told the employee that the nurses were dumb and that they made too much money. That employee would later be terminated, and the reason was his unwillingness to falsely accuse the plaintiff of sleeping at work. According to the lawsuit, the director accused the woman of sleeping on the job among other negative information that was included in performance reviews.

The company claimed that it wasn't liable for damages because it didn't fire the plaintiff. However, a court found that she was constructively discharged. This means that the employer created conditions that would have led a reasonable person to resign. Furthermore, the court found that making disparaging remarks about a person's accent rises to the level of discrimination based on national origin.

Employers who make comments about a person's appearance, language or accent could be guilty of committing national origin discrimination. Those who are victims of such discrimination may be entitled to a financial award that may include back pay if they had been wrongfully terminated. An attorney may use statements made directly to employees or others about an employee as evidence that a person was discriminated against at work.

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