All workers in the United States are legally protected from being discriminated against based on a number of characteristics in the workplace. These protected characteristics include gender, disability, race, age and national origin.
Those who were not born in the United States or whose parents originate from a country other than the United States may fear that speaking a language other than English at work could cause them to be discriminated against. All workers should be able to express their culture and communicate in the language they deem appropriate at work without fearing discrimination. This is why English-only rules in some workplaces have caused a high amount of controversy.
What are English-only rules?
Some workplaces have put in place English-only rules, which prohibits employees from speaking any language other than English while at work.
Are English-only rules a form of national origin discrimination?
Many workers have argued that English-only rules are a form of national origin discrimination since workers can be punished for speaking their native language under these rules.
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has recognized that when these rules are in place in a workplace at all times, they deny an employee an essential characteristic of their national origin. Additionally, the EEOC recognizes that these rules could create an environment of hostility and isolation in the workplace.
Therefore, employers who do impose English-only rules must be able to demonstrate a business necessity for the rule to show that it is not discriminatory in nature.
If you believe that the English-only rule in your workplace is creating a discriminatory culture, you should take action to discover your possible legal options.