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English-Only Rules in the Workplace

Question:

The owner of our company wants to institute an “English-only” rule, requiring our employees to only speak English in the workplace.  I’m just not comfortable with this at all.  Is this even legal?

Answer:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a position statement indicating that English only policies in the workplace violate the law – unless there is a business necessity.  The EEOC has indicated that the rule should be limited to times when it is needed for safe and/or efficient operations.  If a rule appears justified and is instituted, it is highly recommended that the rule not be enforced during breaks and lunches.  For the EEOC statement regarding English only workplace rules go to:-  EEOC, Employment Rights of Immigrants Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws and scroll down to “Speak-English-Only Rules.

A few thoughts to keep in mind, you can translate critical documents into other languages fairly easily.  Think about what those key documents or postings may be. A few examples are employment application, employee handbook, safety warnings.  Often the cost to translate is minimal either using an online solution or reaching out to a translation company (ie. Affordable Language Services)

 

strategic HR inc. knows that keeping abreast of legal compliance issues can be daunting, especially when the laws keep changing. We can help you stay compliant by fielding your questions and offering resources to help you identify and mitigate compliance issues. Visit our Compliance page to learn about our auditing services which can help you identify trouble spots in your HR function.