First Comic Previous Comic Random Comic Next Comic Current Comic
First Comic Previous Comic Random Comic Next Comic Current Comic

I work at a call center in Canada, servicing Canadian callers. And when someone calls a call center - other than the fact that they need to call at all - what's their number one complaint?

That's right - accents.

So the company for which I work, it will happily advertise that yes, all of our customer service agents are based right here in Canada! A Canadian business, employing Canadian workers! No international overseas outsourcing! Yay!

Here's the thing, though:

Canada is a beautiful multicultural mosaic, a nation filled with immigrants and subcultures and diversity. And thus, yes, a fair number of my coworkers do have accents, sometimes very thick ones. As long as a qualified applicant can speak and understand English, we kinda can't not hire them for having an accent.

And I feel bad for those coworkers, I really do. There are some real horror stories about how people act when dealing with someone they believe is a "foreigner", and that's all I'll say about that.

So should my call center not hire applicants with accents, if we know they'll have a rougher time doing the same job? Is the onus on the interviewer to warn the applicant about the difficulty they'll face, or is the onus on the applicant to just... not apply in the first place?

(Given that virtually every job requires you to communicate verbally with at least one other human being, if it were legal to discriminate against someone for having an accent, wouldn't that effectively bar anyone with an accent from any job? And isn't what is and isn't an accent kinda nebulous and subjective?)

I also hear horror stories from my female coworkers, that customers will berate or belittle or sexually harass them for having a feminine-sounding name and voice. Should women also be warned that the job will be harder on them, or encouraged not to apply?

(Wednesday morning, INT: Overdrive Computers back room.)

LH: You agree with me that a non-breast-haver should not be working customer service at the lingerie section, right?
EB: Well, now, this wasn't a Victoria's Secret, was it? We're talking about a subsection of a department store?
LH: It was the register next to the bras. I don't know exactly where one section ends and another begins. But he offered to measure me, and I just don't think that's appropriate.
EB: I dunno, I don't think you can say that men shouldn't be allowed to have that job. That might be considered discrimination. I mean, we let men be gynecologists.
EB: That being said, I do think he should have been savvy enough to pick up on the fact that you were uncomfortable, and perhaps offered to get a female clerk to do it. Y'know, like when you get a massage and they ask if you'd prefer a man or a woman.
GU: They do?
EB: What, you've never gotten a massage before?
GU: I have received back rubs and I am just now realizing that that is not the same thing.