A recent Pharmacy Management Tip of the Week examined workplace laws, in particular those surrounding sexual discrimination and harassment. We take another look at workplace law, this time with a focus on discrimination in upward mobility and organizational rewards based upon a person’s race/ethnicity and other immutable characteristics. The term “immutable” refers to a characteristic we are born with and essentially cannot change, as opposed to our own actions/behaviors, as those can always be changed.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, ethnicity, national origin, and even accent. An employer may not base a decision on an employee’s foreign accent unless the accent materially interferes with job performance. Pharmacists might vary in their English fluency to some extent, but all have completed an accredited pharmacy degree program with communication skills courses, passed their licensure examination, and were hired by an organization. Even with challenges faced by some pharmacists with foreign accents, it is unlikely that their accent will prevent them materially from performing their job. If a pharmacist’s communication with patients and peers should be improved, then this needs to be documented and the pharmacist (or technician) given specific direction on how it might be improved. Akomolafe states that anyone who successfully completes the requirements for becoming a pharmacist and exhibits material competence in their job, including foreign accented speakers, should be accorded the same rights and responsibilities as other pharmacists.1
Pharmacy managers can promote a healthy work environment and the best patient care when decisions on hiring and promoting employees are based on specific behaviors that are documented and that which are praised appropriately or can be directed for improvement. Managing based on employees’ immutable characteristics rather than behaviors can spell trouble in a number of ways.
Additional information about The Basics of Employment Law and Workplace Safety and Human Resources Management Functions can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Akomolafe S. The invisible minority: Revisiting the debate foreign-accented speakers upward mobility in the workplace. J Cultural Diversity. 2013;20:7-14.