If you own a small business, you know how difficult growing an operation can be. After all, not only must you find the best workers for each position, but you must also come up with novel ways to keep customers happy. The last thing you want to deal with is a discrimination claim.
Anti-discrimination laws in the United States do not consider having an accent to qualify as a member of a protected class. Still, members of protected classes often speak with accents. Put simply, if you discriminate against an applicant or employee because of his or her race or national origin, you may face significant legal consequences. Here are some ways to keep accent discrimination from becoming a problem in your organization:
Consider employment qualifications
If you have a worker who speaks with an accent, you may feel tempted to exclude him or her from interactions with customers, suppliers, contractors and others. Doing so, though, may be a mistake. As such, before reworking someone’s job duties, you should consider whether having no accent is an actual qualification for the job. If your employee speaks clearly and intelligibly, it probably is not.
Foster an inclusive workplace
Some of your employees may feel uneasy about working with individuals who have different racial or ethnic backgrounds. If so, you have a role to play. That is, you can take steps to foster an inclusive workplace. Encouraging all workers, holding regular training sessions or asking for equal participation may help you achieve your goals.
Diversify your teams
Minority workers may feel uncomfortable at the job site for a variety of reasons. To help your all of teams succeed, you may want to add some diversity to each one. That is, consider adding employees who look or talk differently to all of your work groups. Typically, when employees work with diverse colleagues, they lose many of their preconceived notions.
Even though an employee’s accent does not qualify for legal protections by itself, it may be part of broader legal safeguards. Therefore, you should work to minimize accent discrimination. With a bit of knowledge and some effort, you can ensure you get the most out of all the workers on your team without having to worry about fighting a discrimination charge.