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Can I Be Fired From My Job Because Of My Accent?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2019 | Employment Discrimination, National Origin Discrimination, Retaliation, Wrongful Termination |

Best Ohio National Origin Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I be fired because I have an accent? Do I have a claim if my boss makes fun of me and harasses me because of my accent? Can my manager treat me differently based on my country of origin or ethnic background? What do I do if I was wrongfully terminated? Are National Origin discrimination cases “worth it”? 

People ask me all the time what it’s like being an employment discrimination attorney. This question is almost alwaysfollowed by, “you must have some crazy stories,” or “you’ve probably seen the worst of the worst bosses.” Yes, and yes. However, I’m seldom asked about the most exciting and best part of my job as an employment law lawyer-which is meeting some truly interesting people. Client interaction means so much to me as an attorney. It gives me a feel for what the person is going through, and all of their life experience that they bring to the table. As you can imagine we have diverse clients and they all have different backgrounds and stories. I enjoy listening to their stories and learning from their experiences. My fellow lawyers and I at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm have great respect for other people’s cultures, ethnic traditions and histories. To my core, I believe that each person we meet can teach us something. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same or has the same respect for people’s heritage or nationalities.

Recently, there was an interesting case that came out of Michigan that made me smile. It’s a true example of justice being served and jurors not tolerating bigotry in the workplace. Michigan resident, Faisal Khalaf worked for Ford. Faisal was a brilliant engineer who had was praised for his performance just six months before his boss fired him. English was not Faisal’s first language and his boss treated him differently from his other co-workers because he had an accent. When Faisal’s boss spoke to him, he was rude, and made negative remarks regarding his accent.

The remarks were more than just the typical, “Can you say that again?” Faisal’s boss would make demeaning remarks and say things like, “What is wrong with you? Why don’t you understand this?” Faisal’s supervisor would literally pound his fists on the desk and yell at Faisal over his English. Faisal’s boss created a hostile work environment where Faisal was set up to fail. His boss gave him harder and more unrealistic goals to reach on his projects until the end result was Faisal not completing his projects by the deadline. Faisal tried his best at work but was constantly sabotaged and degraded for “having a middle eastern back ground.” This type of behavior, in my opinion, is absolutely disgusting! No one should ever have to experience this type of harassment at all- let alone the work place.

Ultimately, justice prevailed, and a jury of Faisal’s peers awarded him $16.8 million! I can only hope that when the jury read the number out loud in the court room Faisal got to look his old bosses in the eye and laugh. Faisal’s attorney stated after the trial was over, “I think the jury was pretty appalled by what they heard, and the verdict reflects this.” I could not agree more! Faisal was treated horribly at work and was given $16.8 million to try to fix the trauma, anxiety and pain he had to endure. No amount of money can make it right, but $16.8 million sure is a good start to the healing process.

Faisal’s story isn’t that unique. As an immigrant, or someone that doesn’t speak English as their first language, Faisal was trying his hardest at work, but was ultimately set up to fail because of his boss’s bias. Faisal was a good employee but was given increasingly more unrealistic goals to reach at work because his supervisor decided he wanted to fire him because of his accent. How can someone succeed if their boss doesn’t want them to? The answer is: you can’t. No matter how hard you work, or how successful you think your projects are, if your boss has it out for you, it’s likely not going to end well for anyone involved.

Luckily for Faisal and people like Faisal, the law protects people from being discriminated against because of their national origin. In Ohio, under Ohio Revised Code §4112.02, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, it is illegal for any employer to discriminate against an employee because of the employee’s national origin or ethnic background. These employment laws expressly prohibit a person’s national origin from adversely impacting decisions to hire, fire, promote, demote, set compensation and other terms and conditions of employment. In other words, your boss can’t fire you or make any major decisions with regards to your job based on where you’re from.

If you think that your boss is not treating you the same as everyone else because of your national origin, or ethnic background you should contact an attorney immediately. There is no shame in protecting yourself and your family from unjust treatment. Everyone deserves a fair chance to do their job well.

The reality that many employers are going to have to face is that the workplace in America is becoming more diverse every year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 15 percent of the American workforce is foreign born, meaning that 23.9 million individuals legally employed in the U.S. may speak English with an accent. This number has steadily risen since 2005. I think the growing diversity in the workplace is a thing to be celebrated! It adds richness to the work environment and gives fellow employees a chance to learn and grow from each other. As our employment discrimination lawyers previously blogged about, seeking help for national origin discrimination can be intimidating and at some moments, scary. (See I was Fired After Reporting National Origin Discrimination. Can I Sue?) But our specialty is making this process as easy as possible for our clients.

Asserting your rights and protecting yourself from unjust treatment is more than merely getting justice for yourself. Not tolerating national origin discrimination is protecting the American Dream. The idea that anyone can come here, work hard, and make a better life for themselves-this idea itself is worth fighting for. Bigots or those with a closed mind shouldn’t be the boulder that stops your success. The American dream only works if the people coming here are given the same opportunities for advancement and employment that everyone else has. Arguably, in my opinion there is nothing more patriotic than asserting your rights and getting the protection and justice that is owed to you.

Reflecting on the importance of protecting the American Dream reminds me of one of my favorite movies: The Pursuit of Happiness. There’s a scene where the main character, Christopher Gardner, is sitting with his son, trying to give him a pep talk. Christopher and his son are homeless at this point, and Christopher is trying to boost his son’s spirits. He says, “You got a dream…you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period.” This scene sticks out as particularly relevant because of its unabashed truth telling. People, neighbors, employers, bosses, they all might tell you that you can’t do something or achieve your goals. But the American spirit that’s within all of us, motivates and compels us to push forward through adversity. Thankfully, when faced with discrimination in the workplace, you don’t have to go get justice alone. We are here. Our employment discrimination attorneys are here. You have help.

Above all, in the coming years I think the amount of employment discrimination litigation is going to increase. TheAmerican workforce is becoming more diverse and those who experience this type of discrimination may be more willing to step forward and stand up for their rights. The amount of foreign born people within the American workforce has been steadily increasing over the past five years. Additionally, news coverage of cases like Faisal’s (the case I mentioned earlier) may motivate people to act when they experience national origin discrimination. It’s clear from Faisal’s case that juries are willing to protect and those who experience this type of discrimination. I say, it’s time to act! Stand up for your rights! You deserve the same chance as everyone else at work. At the very minimum, you deserve to start out on an even playing field, with the same expectations, the same level of critique and the same training as everyone else in your workplace. If your boss, manager, or even the owner of the company is making comments about how he/she doesn’t appreciate your accent or national origin or ethnic background, take action! Please call Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, one of our experienced employment discrimination attorneys can help you get the justice you deserve.

If you feel that your employer is discriminating against you based on your national origin (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Palestinian, Syrian, Asian, Indian, or Russian), you may have a legal claim. To find out if you have a legal claim for national origin discrimination, your best option is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation at one of our offices in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, and throughout Ohio. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with a national origin discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.


The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Russian, Palestinian, Syrian, Japanese)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. What can I do?”, it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem.

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