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Suppose, a tech company in the USA uses AI software to test if a candidate has a certain accent (e.g. standard American accent, Southern British accent, etc.). The candidate has to attain a certain score to pass the test irrespective of race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.

Would that be considered discrimination? Would that be a punishable offense?

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The Dept. of Labor makes it easy for you: as they say, it is illegal discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Civil Rights Center (CRC), is charged with enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C § 2000e-16, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, as it applies to employees and applicants for employment at DOL. National origin discrimination can involve treating applicants for employment or employees of DOL unfavorably because of their actual or perceived place of birth, country of origin, ancestry, native language, accent, or because they are perceived as looking or sounding "foreign."... National origin discrimination can also include disparate treatment because of a person's accent

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    ...unless having a certain accent is a bona fide occupational qualification.
    – phoog
    Jul 1 at 5:31
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    There was a newspaper article in the UK a few years ago about a black British journalist, travelling in the USA, and people there just couldn't handle the fact that a black person would speak with a British accent. They thought it was some kind of pretence, he found it quite funny. Probably related to the fact that they insisted on calling him "African-American" when he was neither African nor American but just plain British.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 1 at 9:26
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    @Trish But unless the job is some kind of undercover police/spy thing, the demand isn't that you have a southern London accent, only that you can adopt one. Brad Pitt doesn't have an Irish Traveller accent. Pam St Clement who played a lead character in the UK TV soap opera East Enders actually has a cut-glass upper-class accent, but you wouldn't know it from the show. And no-one talks Beltalowda.
    – Graham
    Jul 1 at 10:22
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    @gnasher729 There was a US journalist who interviewed Nelson Mandela quite a few years ago. One of the questions was about his experience as an African-American. Mr Mandela was briefly confused. Jul 1 at 13:44
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    @Graham A better example may be customer service operators. Many Americans are immediately suspicious when they call customer support and they get someone with an Indian accent, because they perceive that the service has been offshored to underpaid and undertrained workers. This reduces their perception of the company, which can have a direct result on the bottom line. OTOH, I think the law doesn't allow "We have to discriminate because our customers are bigots".
    – Barmar
    Jul 1 at 14:10

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