Best Ohio National Origin Discrimination Attorney Answer: Is it illegal for my boss to have an English-only policy? Are there some situations in which English-only policies are legal? Can I be fired for speaking Spanish at work?
I took a call from a potential client recently who said that his manager told him that he couldn’t speak Spanish to his co-workers because it made the non-Spanish speakers in the office feel left out. He was wondering whether an English-only policy at work was legal.
Whether it’s just an informal, unspoken “rule” or an actual company policy, a surprising number of employers try to impose English-only policies. These are almost never legal, and as we have blogged about before, they are clear violations of laws prohibiting discrimination based on national original ( and here too).
Here’s what the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has to say about English-only policies:
[R]ules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless they are reasonably necessary to the operation of the business. A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified. An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently. Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiently. Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequence of violating it.
As with all company work rules, an English-only policy can only be implemented by your boss or job for nondiscriminatory reasons only. To that end, your manager cannot create an English-only rule with the intent to discriminate against employees of a particular national origin. Along the same lines, your supervisor or boss cannot make it against the rules to speak only certain foreign languages but not others, such as a no Russian speaking rule while allowing Spanish to be spoken.
You can see that English-only restrictions are valid in only a very narrow band of circumstances. Protecting the feelings of co-workers that might feel “left out” is not one of them. So what did I tell my potential client to do? We signed him up as a client and helped him consult his policy and procedures manual, and follow the protocol for reporting incidents of harassment or discrimination. We made sure to have him make report in writing as specific as possible.
If you are faced with such a rule, or if you are retaliated against in any way for filing complaining about national origin discrimination, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney. At Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, you will meet with an employment lawyer who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them, whether it be by filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC or filing a Complaint in state or federal court.
If you feel that your employer is discriminating against you based on your national origin (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Palestinian, Syrian, Asian, Indian, or Russian), you may have a legal claim. To find out if you have a legal claim for national origin discrimination, your best option is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Disclaimer:
The materials available at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Mexican, Puerto Rican, Russian, Palestinian, Syrian, Japanese)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. What can I do?”, it would be best for to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem.
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