Thick accent results in discrimination suit against FAMU

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A native of Belize has sued Florida A&M University for terminating her, partly because her accent was so thick “no one could understand what she was saying.”

Glenda McDougall filed her suit in Leon County Circuit Civil court late Friday.

McDougall, represented by Tallahassee attorney Marie Mattox, seeks more than $15,000 in damages and reinstatement of her employment.

Belize, a country of roughly 8,800 square miles and 370,000 people, is on the eastern coast of Central America.

It’s the only Central American nation where English is the primary language; its previous name was “British Honduras.”

The complaint says McDougall, who is black, started at FAMU in 2000 and was let go in August 2014.

She says she was the victim of discrimination because of an “actual or perceived disability and (because of) her national origin, Belizean.”

McDougall had been working for the school’s Parking Services but needed a transfer to a sit-down job after injuring her knee.

She was moved to the university’s Communication Center as a dispatcher without any issues, the suit said.

After she asked for time off, supervisors told her she could no longer work there because “no one could understand” her.

State universities generally decline to comment on pending litigation. A university spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email.

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Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.