Category: Race Discrimination

Accent Discrimination—Is it legal?

In Great Britain, the issue of regional accents are a hot topic. In a country were a “posh” London proper accent is seen as more educated and sophisticated, employees in the United Kingdom attempt to change their thicker region accents to resemble those heard in the capital. When one reflects to that same rhetoric in the United States, we might laugh. We would never discriminate against regional or foreign accents. Or do we?

In a study and article written in 2002 and 2007 respectively, academics suggest that accents “leads to judgments about ethnicity and socioeconomic status” as well as affect the perception of that person’s “intelligence, physical attractiveness, and trust-worthiness.” In the realm of employment law, these inherent perceptions lead to various accent rules that may actual be in violation of the Labor Code.

We recently blogged about English only policies in the work place and when it can be deemed discriminatory. Read about it here . For accents, the same rules more or less applies. Since accents are very closely associated with ethnicity and national origin, accent discrimination is a hot topic in courts.

The law summarizes that fluency and accent rules may be legal if clear oral communication is essential or vital to the position. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides the example of an individual with a foreign accent working at a restaurant. While the person’s English language proficiency qualifies for a cashier position, his or her written skills may not be developed enough to perform managerial duties that include written documentation to government agencies or to perform written evaluation. In that case, the employer is not discriminating based on fluency and accent, but on the necessity of the job to have clear communication.

However, back in 2012, truck driver and Russian immigrant Ismail Aliyev was fired strictly for his accent, he alleges. Aliyev worked as a contract driver for FedEx and was written up on multiple occasions for his “inability to speak English.” These violations and write ups could never be produced. Though he has a heavy Russian accent, Aliyev stated, “I think for a driver, my English is not too bad.”

If you believe your accent is being discriminated against for any reason, contact an Aegis attorney.

Source: Nolo, Insurance Journal, J.N. Fuertes, and Intuition Fall 2007 edition

Image Source: Harper College

More NBA Legal Drama Targets the Lakers

The Clippers aren’t the only one who are seeing their share of legal drama. This time, the Lakers are named in the lawsuit for race and age discrimination.

Fernando Gonzalez is suing both the Lakers and Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles Superior Court for shorting him on wages, opportunities, goods, and experience.

Gonzalez, who was born in Mexico but became a U.S. citizen, has worked for the Lakers for 18 years as a Spanish language play by play announcer. He claims that he and his Latino co-announcer, Pepe Mantilla, were treated differently from their Caucasian counterparts for terms of employment.

The lawsuit names various instances where Gonzalez and Mantilla were discriminated against: (1) Neither of the Spanish speaking announcers were mentioned at the beginning of games where broadcasters were announced on the big screen; (2) When the Lakers won the championships in 200, staff and broadcaster were gifted $6,000 commutative rings that Gonzalez and Mantilla were told they would have to pay $3,000 for if they wanted one; (3) For the first seven years of employment, Gonzalez and Mantilla’s families were not permitted to use the “family room” that other families had access to; and (4) They were left out of annual NBA meetings held in New York or New Jersey.

Further, Gonzalez is alleging age discrimination dealing with an incident in 2012 where Gonzalez was passed over for a Time Warner Cable Deportes (Spanish language sports channel) position that went to an under 40, under qualified broadcaster.

After complaining about the disparate treatment, Gonzalez found his compensation was drastically cut and Time Warner Cable refused to schedule the Plaintiff for games.

Source: Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC546722

All Alone at Tiffany & Co.

It’s a familiar scene: Moon River crooning in the background as bejeweled and regal Holly Golightly slowly crosses in front of the Tiffany’s display windows, a pastry and coffee in hand. Throughout the movie, Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly frequently visits the famous jewelry mogul.

During these scenes in the store, however, one may notice the absence of ethnic minorities in Tiffany’s, namely African Americans. But that was 1961, before the Civil Rights March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1963, before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, and before the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But this is 2014. The absence of African Americans in the company’s management ranks is now the center of a potential race discrimination lawsuit.

In New York, a manager at Tiffany’s is suing the company for race discrimination. Michael McClure alleges in the complaint filed in federal court that the company has discriminated against him and other blacks. McClure is the sole African-American manager out of 200 total managers in North America.

McClure points to one particular occasions when he received an anonymous letter that stated Senior Vice President of North America, Anthony Ledru, had said he was shocked and surprised to see that “a black man is representing the Tiffany Brand.”

McClure was ultimately terminated after a poor performance evaluation that he alleges was unfair.

Source: Associated Press

Donald Sterling’s Less Than Sterling Reputation

maiko-maya-kingAmidst the controversy, lifetime bans, and money making, Donald Sterling has also been served with a sexual harassment and race discrimination lawsuit. Gimme a “D” for defense!

Maiko Maya King, an employee for Sterling’s foundation and his former assistant, filed the complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court. In the complaint, she alleges that throughout 2005 to 2011, Sterling and King were involved in a romantic relationship, wherein Sterling held money and wages over King’s head for sexual favors.

She accuses Sterling of repeatedly making sexual demands, and then subjecting her to racial comments and epithets. Their initial relationship ended in 2011, but King began working for Sterling a second time more recently. He attempted to take up the same sort of relationship as King’s previous employment, but she protested against his behaviors. Sterling then fired her last month.

King also alleges that Sterling made derogatory comments about her former husband, who is black, and subsequently her children. One general comment Sterling made to her was, “black people do not take care of their children. All they do is sit at home and smoke dope.” He further asked King “how could you be married to a black man?” and “Why would you bring black people into the world?”

During their “good” times, Sterling purportedly told King, “I want to take you out of the black world and put you in the white world” and when they fought he argued, “move back to the ghetto with a black man.”

The reason that Sterling strayed from girlfriend and then assistant V. Stiviano, was because he was “bored” with Stiviano sexually and wanted King to resume the sexual relationship. He wanted King to tell him stories of her sexual past so that he would get aroused. He offered her sizable bonuses for doing so.

King is seeking unspecified compensatory damages and is represented by famous civil rights attorney Gloria Allred.

Source: Reuters & NY Daily News

Are English-Only Rules Lawful?

According to the 2011 Census, California has the largest ethnic minority population in the United States, counting for 12% of the country’s total ethnic minority population. With such ethnic diversity, employers are tasked with being equal to all ethnicities and employees. As per the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, discrimination based on race or national origin is strictly prohibited.

One point of contention and constant discussion is the idea of maintaining English-only language policies in the workplace. Is it lawful? Can the employer do that? Well, like most areas of the law, maybe.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers may enforce an English-only policy “if it is necessary to promote workplace safety or efficiency.” The EEOC cites the example of employees speaking only English during emergency situations as to avoid confusion or if dealing with customer who speak only English.

An employer may not implement said policy if it is for a discriminatory reason. For instance, in 2012, Delano Regional Medical Center (DRMC) implemented an English speaking policy that applied to Filipino-Americans exclusively. Filipinos were strictly prohibited to speak languages like Tagalog and Ilocano while their Latino counterparts were not only permitted to speak Spanish but were also encouraged to turn in their Filipino co-workers who did speak the banned languages. DRMC faced a class action alleging national origin discrimination and a hostile work environment and agreed to settle the case for $975,000.