Numerous forms of discrimination can occur in the workplace. One form is national origin discrimination, and this is when certain businesses start to show their xenophobic side. A large number of immigrants continue to enter the United States, and depending on what your company does and where in the country it is located, you might have a sizable amount of immigrants applying for jobs. Although English-only rules can be viewed as discriminatory, there are ways they can be acceptable, which make them a difficult aspect of the law to speak about definitively. Here are some facts to learn about English-only rules in case you were ever thinking of applying them at your business.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contains Title VII, which prohibits discrimination against employees on the grounds of an individual’s religion, race, sex or national origin. Enforcing English-only rules can be viewed in certain situations as discrimination against someone’s national origin because the first language someone speaks is an integral part of his or her cultural identity. It is tough to cite precedent on this issue because some courts have sided with employees who were discriminated against, while others have determined that Title VII does not contain language that would protect against English-only policies. It is best to stay on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s good side and avoid enforcing this kind of policy at all.
Exceptions to the Rule
While some employers out there may create these kinds of policies out of a sense of xenophobia, some business owners simply want to run an efficient business. Sometimes that involves having your employees speak the same language as the majority of your clientele. These are some exceptions that may allow a business to require employees to speak a common language:
In these circumstances, it is necessary for everyone to speak English so that the business continues to operate effectively. However, bear in mind that even though these situations may require a common language, you cannot force someone to speak in another language on their off time. For example, you may require employees to speak English when interacting with customers, but you cannot force someone to speak English when he or she is in the break room talking with other employees.
How Can Language Rules Promote Discrimination?
In order to understand why English-only rules should be avoided whenever possible, it is important to understand how it can be viewed as discriminatory. For example, enforcing these rules can create a hostile work environment by isolating certain employees. Some workers may only be able to speak a little English and would be more comfortable speaking in their native tongues. Forcing them to speak a language they are not entirely comfortable with may make them less likely to interact with other employees, and feel like they are being left out.
Additionally, if a policy like this is going to be in place, then it needs to apply to everyone. For example, if you insist that someone whose first language is Russian must speak English at all times but people whose first language is Spanish can speak it whenever they please, then that is discriminatory. For the most part, if you are going to enforce a policy like this, then it needs to be extremely limited to situations where it is absolutely essential to someone’s work function. You could be facing a national origin discrimination lawsuit if you have an English-only policy, so it is best to be avoided.
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