Language, inclusion, and diversity in the workplace

December 17, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Lauren E.M. Russell

Employees’ use of a language other than English in the workplace presents many considerations in the employment law context. An individual’s language is tightly tied with race and national origin, which are protected categories under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many states’ anti-discrimination laws. On the other hand, customers and other employees may feel unwelcome when they are excluded from conversations. And even worse, they may overhear unprofessional comments when your employees wrongly assume that customers don’t understand the language being spoken.  Hello speech bubbles.

Balancing these considerations can be difficult, but when discussions in a language other than English are legitimately disruptive to the workplace, they should be addressed.

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EEOC to update guidance on English-only policies?

January 19, 2014 0 COMMENTS

by Amanda Shelby

Chief among the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) current priorities are (1) eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring and (2) protecting immigrant, migrant, and other vulnerable workers. It therefore should come as no surprise that the EEOC might be setting its sights on revising its guidance relating to English-only policies since those policies arguably implicate both of its top two priorities. So what does the EEOC’s guidance currently say? What are the agency’s concerns? And what precautions can you take now to minimize your risks in the future?  SpeakEnglish

EEOC’s current guidance

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Say what? Asking employees to take language classes

October 14, 2012 0 COMMENTS

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.

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The Rule Is ‘English only’! Capice?

June 19, 2011 0 COMMENTS

By Lauren M. Cooper

A much-debated issue is whether you may lawfully require employees to speak only English in the workplace. The simple answer is yes. This article will address the circumstances in which you may legally enforce an English-only policy and the potential legal risks that follow.

Status Quo Ante

Employers increasingly ask employees to refrain from speaking languages other than English in the workplace to promote productivity and efficiency and preserve workplace harmony. Certainly, a policy that targets only a particular language or national origin, such as a “non- Spanish” policy, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on national origin. But what about rules requiring employees to speak English while on the job? read more…