America has long been known as a melting pot, where people from all over the world come to find a better life. As part of that better life, many people hope to find jobs that will help to support their families. Federal and state employment laws help to make this possible by protecting these workers from workplace discrimination. Under these laws, it is illegal for California employers to discriminate based on a person’s national origins.

Despite these laws, new data — released by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — shows that over the past several years there has been an increase in employee complaints based on national origin. According to the report, there has been a 76 percent increase in these national origin complaints between 1997 and 2011. Many of these complaints stem from the employee’s ability to speak English.

Courts from around the country have seen cases where employees have claimed they have been fired because of their accents. In these cases, employees have claimed that their employers have illegally fired them because they could not speak English clearly enough.

In fact, as a previous blog post mentioned, a California court recently ruled that a it was illegal for a hospital to harass and punish Filipino employees for speaking with an accident, or in their native tongue during breaks. In that case, the workers were awarded $1 million.

The EEOC says that the increase in national origin complaints based on accents is likely due to a more diverse workplace. According to the EEOC, at least 45 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. For these employees, it is important for them to know they have protections against discrimination because of their native language.

Employers cannot discriminate against them just because they have an accent. If their accent does not interfere with their ability to perform their job and the employees are fired, they could be entitled to compensation.

Source: Insurance Journal, “More Workers Claiming Job Discrimination Over Language, Accents,” Paul Foy, Dec. 4, 2012