Posted on March 26, 2022

Discrimination in Hiring Is Always Bad. But It Might Not Always Be Illegal

Suzanne Lucas, Inc., March 24, 2022

Eluned Anderson received a rejection email for a job application. That part is normal. What isn’t normal is why the hiring manager rejected her. The email contained this explanation:

It was decided that your strong Welsh accent, accompanied by your regional activities, would not suit the office environment.

This is a weird reason to reject someone, and if you’re in the U.S., it could also be an illegal reason to reject someone. It could also be legal–so here’s the difference for employers in the United States.


In the United States, you can’t discriminate against someone on the basis of where they were born or their citizenship. As long as they are legal to work, you have to consider them like everyone else. {snip}

So, if their accent comes from being born outside of the U.S. or English is their second language, you could be breaking the law. Business attorney Josh Joel, counsel at Stanton Law, explains:

Refusing to hire someone on the basis of their accent can be dangerous territory. Federal law forbids making employment decisions on the basis of national origin, and a foreign accent is a clear reflection of national origin.

In Anderson’s case, they rejected her because her Welsh accent was too strong. In the U.S. (understanding that Anderson is in the U.K. and under different rules), that could result in a strong national origin discrimination case.

That doesn’t mean you have to hire someone you cannot understand {snip}


Weirdly, you can discriminate against a native Philadelphian for their accent but not against a native Brazilian. Regional accents don’t have protection.