by Brad Cave
Q: Will I be in violation of federal discrimination laws if I provide an “English as a second language” (ESL) employee English language training at the company’s expense?
A Any possible discrimination charge under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be based on national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has promulgated express guidelines for employers with employees who don’t speak English as their primary language. The agency has recognized that employers sometimes have legitimate business reasons for basing employment decisions on linguistic characteristics, but because those characteristics are closely associated with national origin, you must be careful to ensure that the business reasons you rely on justify any burdens placed on employees because of their national origin.