There are two competing schools of thought on whether or not an employer can refuse to promote an immigrant worker with a foreign accent. If you feel that you are in this type of situation, talk about it with an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney will help you sort out the facts to determine whether or not you are dealing with a legitimate discrimination case.
The first school of thought recognizes that an employee’s accent is directly linked to his nationality. When an employer makes promotion decisions based on the employee’s accent, that constitutes national origin discrimination.
The other school of thought on this issue gives employers the right to make employment decisions based on a worker’s ability to effectively communicate with customers. If the accent is strong enough that customers cannot understand what the employee is saying to them, this justifies an employer’s refusal to promote the worker to a position that requires a great deal of verbal communication with customers.
Typically, the issue involving an immigrant worker’s accent is resolved by giving employers the right to make hiring and promotion decisions based on whether or not the worker’s accent seriously interferes with adequate job performance. However, if the employee speaks clear English with a foreign accent, that does not justify an employer’s refusal to hire or promote that employee. The job in question must require strong English communication skills, such as a customer service position, and the employee’s foreign accent must substantially impair his ability to be understood by customers.
As mentioned earlier, if you feel you are being discriminated against at work because of your accent, discuss the issue with an attorney.