The Associated Press reported today that New York’s Hawaiian Tropic Zone restaurant sought to dismiss a race discrimination lawsuit filed by Melody Morales of Brooklyn, New York. Ms. Morales claims that when she tried to get a job as a bikini-clad barmaid, she was told that she did not speak “white” and her language was too “ghetto.”
Morales claims that she was denied the position because of her accent and that this translated to race discrimination. The restaurant’s lawyers told a New York judge that the Manhattan restaurant was entitled to deny employment to inarticulate speakers.
Although accent discrimination can be viewed as national origin discrimination, this is not always the case, because it is not discriminatory for an employer to require that an employee be articulate depending, of course, on the type of job at issue. The determination of whether Ms. Morales’ claim constitutes race discrimination or national origin discrimination will likely turn on whether the employer took exception to her accent, or her grammar.
In addition to federal law, the New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws prohibit race discrimination and national origin discrimination in employment.