Archive for the ‘National Origin Discrimination’ Category

One of the areas of frequent complaint with employers, especially in areas such as South Florida and California is whether an employer can force an employee to speak only english in the workplace. In some instances, this requirement is a violation of federal and/or state law constituting national origin discrimination.

Some of these rules implemented by employers are referred to as “English Only” rules. The question with these types of rules is whether the employer had a business justification for having such a rule. Even where an English-only rule has been adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons, the employer’s use of the rule should relate to specific circumstances in its workplace. An English-only rule is justified by “business necessity” if it is needed for an employer to operate safely or efficiently. The following are some situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only rule:

For communications with customers, coworkers, or supervisors who only speak English

In emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety

For cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency

To enable a supervisor who only speaks English to monitor the performance of an employee whose job duties require communication with coworkers or customers

So for example, if you work in a bank, it may be appropriate for your employer to speak only English in dealing with customers or on the front line, but it may not be appropriate to discipline an employee for speaking another language in the break room with another employee.

As with other employment laws, it would also be illegal for an employer to terminate or retaliate against an employee for complaining about English only requirements in the workplace.

If you believe that your employer is wrongfully using an English only rule, you should speak with the Human Resources Department or if necessary go the the EEOC or an employment lawyer to discuss these issues and possibly file a Charge of Discrimination.