Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How Workplaces’ English-only Policy Affects Spanish Workers

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English-only policies of companies in the United States affect many employees especially the Spanish-speaking workers. According to statistics, the Spanish language is the second most commonly used language in the U.S. (12.3 percent) just behind the English language (80 percent).

Spanish-speaking employees who work at companies and/or business ventures that implement English-only policies may wonder if such arrangement is in accordance with the law. In fact, it is. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), English-only policies of employers may be considered lawful as long as it does not contradict the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In Fiscal Year 2002, EEOC has received 228 employment discrimination complaints related to English-only policies. This only shows that workers who cannot speak English well are in threat of being discriminated. Under Title VII, employers cannot discriminate against workers because of their national origin. Workplace discrimination based on a person’s national origin means treating a worker less favorably or adversely because that person is from a certain place otherwise belongs to a particular ethnic group.

Unlawful Grounds for English-only Policies

EEOC claims that language restriction policies of employers may be considered discriminatory and unfair if:

•    The policy only applies to certain individuals
•    The workers were not informed or oriented by the employer about the policy’s guidelines
•    The policy takes effect even in non-workplace related hours such as mealtime breaks

Tips for Employers

Employers who are implementing or planning to implement language restriction policies in their workplace should abide by Title VII in order to avoid employment disputes. The following are suggested tips concerning English-only policy implementation:

•    Inform your workers about the policy by disseminating guidelines
•    Apply the policy to all workers and not only to employees who speak other foreign languages
•    Consult with an employment law attorney to verify if the policy is in accordance to Title VII

Tips for Employees

Employees who believe that they have been discriminated based on their national origin through the implementation of English-only policy of their company are suggested to accomplish the following steps:

•    Preserve all pieces of evidence that would prove that your employer has discriminated you
•    File a formal complaint with the EEOC or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (for California workers)
•    Consult with an employment attorney in order to efficiently take legal actions
•    Seek for settlement from your employer


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