Is this fair?

What is your opinion on this situation?

Yesterday I was in a supermarket that belongs to a small chain of stores in my area. It specializes in East European, mostly Polish, food, but its customers are not only Polish, but are of many different ethnicities, including Romanians, Russians, Slovaks and very many ordinary Americans. Nonetheless, even though it is not a family business, EVERY employee in the store is from Poland. The employees are not related; it’s just that the store doesn’t hire people who are not from Poland. When I was there yesterday, I saw many advertisements posted around the store that said they wanted to hire someone for warehouse and stock room help. However, the advertisements were only in Polish. It was clear that they were trying to make sure that only people from Poland applied for the job. I asked one of the employees whether an applicant who wasn’t from Poland would be considered for the job, and in a shocked, angry voice, she answered, “I DON’T KNOW!”

Do you think this is fair?

Compare this to the ordinary American supermarket in my area. They hire people from any country, including people who don’t speak English yet. I see Albanians there who are now managers but didn’t know English when they were first hired. Now these Albanians are hiring Bengalis and people from still other countries, many of whom speak only a little English right now. One of my friends was hired by a department store before she could speak much English, and in half a year she was put in charge of the stock room.

What’s your opinion on all this?

Hi Jamie,

I think it is discrimnatory and wrong not to consider applicants on basis of their nationality. It’s one’s suitability to do the job that matters, not where one grew up!

All the best


Let’s clean America of all the SOB’s who don’t speak English properly (or at all).
Say no to immigrants ignorant of English and American culture!!!.
(Incidentally, do you still practice lynching ?)

Not only that, but I think it’s illegal. Just to be sure, I’ve asked the state department of civil rights. :twisted:

I guess you wanned to say it is discrimnatory and wrong ___ to consider applicants on basis of their nationality", didn’t you :slight_smile:

Hi lost_soul,

I think both sentences are equally correct. In this context, my sentence means that I think it is wrong not to consider applicants because they are American.

All the best


Yeah, I have to eat my words :slight_smile:

Is this really a question of fairness or rather a question of business savvy (or lack thereof)? In the long run it doesn’t make much sense to only employ Polish people in a country that is as culturally diverse as the US. I’m sure that with such a myopic approach your business won’t get far. On the other hand, I also don’t think that it would be very wise to ‘force’ a company to change their employment policy. They have to understand the advantages of cultural diversity themselves. Who wants to work for a company that had to be forced by law to employ you?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: People shopping[YSaerTTEW443543]

In the days of very severe racial discrimination in the US, particularly in the South, fair hiring practices, and school admission practices, had to be forced on individual businesses and institutions. When the first high school was forcibly integrated in the South, FBI agents had to escort the black students through the hallways so that they wouldn’t be attacked. (Naturally, it was only a small number of classmates who would attack them, but even one is dangerous.)

The first employees who were forcibly hired under anti-discrimination measures did have problems in the workplace. However, once the employer knows that Big Brother is watching him, he is careful about discriminating, and eventually he – or his children – get used to employing without regard to race or ethnicity. In the 1950s, a man I know had to make a special effort to get a young black man hired as a chemist in a big car company. In the 1960s, the government was scrutinizing the company to make sure they didn’t discriminate, and the company was forced to take measures to attract minority applicants. Now the general belief in the same firm is that ethnic diversity is good for the company, and they go out of their way to recruit people from various backgrounds.

Actually, the government here doesn’t tell you who to hire. They just make sure that your way of advertising open positions, and your hiring criteria don’t discriminate. If you do everything possible not to discriminate, and you still don’t get a qualified minority applicant, you’re usually off the hook.

Hi Jamie,

I don’t think I would have gone as far as to make inquiries at the department of civil rights, but I can see your point. Having a poster up in a foreign language in your country can make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. However, if you put yourself in their position it is quite understandable why they put up a sign in Polish. Since they sell predominantly Polish products, the majority of their customers probably come from a Polish speaking background. The staff is Polish, and they probably want a Polish native or someone who has a certain degree of fluency in the Polish language to do the job (I know - in your country, that is). Maybe their marketing strategy is based on displaying an image of Polish exoticism, you never know. Still, they also have costumers like yourself who have a thing for Polish products; either because they have lived or visited the country, have a Polish partner or simply speak the language. Since you could understand their ad, you might as well consider yourself eligible for the job, even though it wasn’t put up in your language. What probably annoys you most is the fact that Polish is not an official language in your country, and they still dared to openly signpost in it. And then again, does America have an official language at all?

Anyway, when you asked the cashier about what this was all about, and she displayed her lack of American customer-care friendliness by pouting “I DON’T KNOW!”, your culture shock experienced undesired completion. I can sympathise with this feeling, it happens to me every other week when I do my grocery shopping here in Germany. But you could also try and see it from the poor girl’s perspective. In her country it is not customary to ask questions like “why is this and why is that”, and even if they happen to be asked (as you did), a reply in the manner exercised by her (or even worse “What do you want? I’m only here to do the checkout!”) would more than likely not be frowned upon.

Ralf, I didn’t object specifically to the job posting being in another language. If, for example, their company needed translators who could read and write Polish, it would have been perfectly appropriate to post in Polish. There’s no restriction on that. However, if they were using the Polish language to make sure that only Polish people applied for the stock boy jobs, that would be highly illegal, and they could be subject to stiff fines.

Most of the Polish products have never had Polish-only labels. The bread is labeled in English, as are the dairy products, and I know that some of the Polish employees can’t read those labels. Even the specific Polish delicacies are labeled either in English only, or in English and Polish. Plus, the Polish names for most of them are the generic terms used in English by monolingual Americans in my area, and everyone knows what they are. The chocolate and candy come equally from Poland and Germany, and those are multi-lingually labeled, so there’s no problem with people who are not fluent in Polish being able to stock the shelves. In fact, the only labels I’ve seen that don’t identify the products in English are in Russian, and Poles of the age this store employs generally can’t read Russian.

Part of my animosity toward the whole thing is that a large portion of the Polish population in my area tends to be very insular and fairly arrogant, and advertising in Polish only is more an expression of that, rather than an attempt to project an exotic image. It’s more about “this is our store” than about trying to project an “exotic Polish image”. Nothing Polish is exotic in my area, where people of all nationalities call the day before Ash Wednesday “Pączke Day” and consume Polish jelly doughnuts, and where a lot of other Polish foods and customs have penetrated into ordinary homes.

In my city, the Greek restaurant owners hire a lot of people from Albania, Iraq and Yemen. Mexican restaurant owners sometimes hire regular white-bread Americans. Many Chinese restaurants have Mexicans cooking in them, not to mention the Thai and Vietnamese waitresses they employ. All-American style restaurants hire Albanians to work in them, and Albanians often hire regular Americans to work in theirs. The Italian fruit markets employ Chaldeans, Russians, Filipinos, Americans or just anyone they think will work well. I knew an Irish-American girl who was hired as a waitress by some Chinese, and she learned all the Cantonese she needed on the job. If other nationalities don’t have a problem with this, I don’t see why a Polish-owned CHAIN of stores should.

Family businesses are a different matter, though.

in many cases, a company employs only local people just in consideration of the management cost and convenience.

Iwanna, the company I’m talking about does not hire local people; it hires Polish people. If they hired local people, they’d have Iraqis, Romanians, Filipinos, Vietnamese and regular Americans working there side by side with the Poles, just as the Italians do at their supermarkets. Instead, they hire only Polish people, and they bring them in from very far away. I know some of the people, and they live in other cities. So this is not a matter of convenience.

oh, i misunderstood it, I supposed the supermarket was located in a Polish neighborhood.

in this case, maybe they suppose the Polish fellows to know more about the food and to handle them more skillfully, anyhow, it seems to be a reasonable explanation, I mean, I’d rather not to take it up to a fairness level.

What would you think about the bank across the street from this supermarket? The bank also employs only people from Poland. Are Polish people better at banking than other people?

It simply boils down to the fact that they want only Polish people working in those places. They don’t want anyone else. The Italians teach Filipinos, Iraqis, Albanians, Russians and Ukrainians to handle and prepare their style of food, and nobody knows the difference – not even the Italians. The Chinese train Mexicans to cook their cuisine. The Greeks hire Yemenis and Americans to handle and cook their food. The Macedonians hire Americans to work in their bakeries. The Belgians who ran the bakery near my house hired Macedonians to work in it, and the Macedonians now own the place, and the pastries are as Belgian as they always were. The waitress in the Belgian bar is Slovenian. The Mexicans hire Americans, Vietnamese and people from still other countries to work in their restaurants. The Czech chef has Polish people working in her kitchen. The Algerian chef has black Americans working in his kitchen.

It’s simply a matter of these Polish people not wanting to hire non-Poles. This does come down to fairness. And clannishness. They have their Polish store, their Polish bank, their Polish discotheque, their Polish church, their Polish everything. They don’t even have to learn English, if they don’t want to. The other nationalities in my city aren’t as extreme in this way.

Maybe you are right, after all, I didn’t experience it myself. I don’t have any idea whether the Poles are exclusive or not. In my opinion, this is a matter of cultural difference. Especially when people immigrate to a new land, staying with their fellowmen makes them feel more secure. It might take them a long time to get along completely with other people. but, America is an open society, the new comers would finally get melted into American culture. I am a Chinese, and I know that Chinese Americans used to be even more exclusive and self-closed at their early days of living in America, that’s why there are so many China-towns all over the world.

I think it would be unfair for a group of people from another nationality to do such a rather racial thing in another country. I call it a ‘racial’ act. It’s an act of those people who don’t need to be in Rome when they are in Rome by not learning to adopt new things.

Is this awful term still commonly used in the US, Jamie?

Yes, it’s common, but it’s not considered particularly awful. It’s just a way of saying that someone has completely ordinary American habits and behavior. I don’t see what’s offensive about it.

I’d be very curious to know what ‘ordinary American habits and behavior’ are.