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English-only rules and workplace discrimination

Some companies in California have English language-only rules in place. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, disfavors such rules because an individual's language is a distinctive characteristic of his or her nationality.

English-only rules have been found to be permissible if they are used only at certain times and if they are in place as a business necessity. An example might be a requirement that a television announcer speaks in English when he or she is on the air. Before a company can initiate an English-only rule out of necessity, the business must first notify its employees. If the business doesn't notify its employees and then fires one of them for speaking in a language other than English, the action may constitute discrimination toward the employee for his or her national origin.

Language-exclusive rules that are in place for all of the time at a workplace are presumed to be discriminatory in nature. The EEOC approved codification corresponding to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 concerning English-only regulations. Workplace rules that forbid ever communicating in another language in the workplace can isolate workers and are presumed to be invalid.

Workers who believe that their employee rights were violated by their employers may want to consult with an employment law attorney. A lawyer may review the facts of what happened and then advise the person about whether or not it appears that they have a valid claim. If the employer appears to have engaged in prohibited discrimination against the worker based on his or her national origin, the attorney may help his or her client file a complaint with the EEOC. Lawyers may help gather evidence to support the claim of discrimination to make it more likely to be successful in a lawsuit.

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