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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Employer’s workplace violence memo violated employee rights

January 17, 2016 0 COMMENTS

Policies designed to protect employees may do more harm than good

December 20, 2015 0 COMMENTS

by Jeremy M. Brenner

The law prohibits discrimination against employees and applicants based on a number of protected statuses. Employers often implement policies that are intended to benefit workers but actually cause illegal systemic discrimination. Unfortunately, no matter how genuine an employer’s good intentions are, they typically do not excuse it from discriminatory conduct. Read on to learn some of the pitfalls employers face when implementing seemingly neutral — or even beneficial — workplace policies.   Folder with the label Policies


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Faithfully expecting: religious accommodations and employer-mandated vaccination policies

October 14, 2012 0 COMMENTS

An “informal discussion letter” from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) indicates that employers should carefully weigh religious objections by pregnant employees, specifically in the context of employer-mandated vaccination policies.


In February 2012, a healthcare provider wrote the EEOC requesting a formal interpretation of the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, to healthcare workers’ requests for exemption from employer-mandated vaccinations. The healthcare provider specifically asked whether hospitals must accommodate their employees’ religious objections to mandatory vaccinations and whether an accommodation must be considered for a pregnant worker who refuses to take a vaccine. The EEOC didn’t issue any formal guidelines, but it did release an informal advisory letter. We want to ensure you are aware of the agency’s position on the matter. read more…

A New Genre of Discrimination? Smokers Need Not Apply

February 19, 2012 6 COMMENTS

By Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q: Our company is considering implementing a policy that would make individuals who smoke ineligible for employment. In doing so, we would save a substantial amount of money on our insurance premiums. Can we do this? If so, how do we monitor employees who claim they have quit smoking?

A: Many industries are implementing or considering “no-smokers” policies. Basically, the premise is that insurance companies are lowering their premiums for companies that have policies prohibiting employees from smoking. However, these are not your typical “no-smoking- in-the-workplace” policies. These policies prohibit employees from smoking ― period, regardless of whether they’re on the job. In addition to lowering health insurance premiums, many employers argue that hiring smokers increases production costs because of smoke breaks and high absenteeism from smoking-related illnesses. read more…

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…