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Can you require your employees to speak the same language?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2021 | Employment Law |

Where you work and run your company, the majority of people speak English. You expect your employees to speak English to customers — because that’s what’s most common.

Do you have a right to require your employees to only use English in the workplace, though? What about communications between people who may speak other languages, like Chinese, Spanish or German? What about when one employee speaks to another in the native language they both share?

Restrictions involving language may violate EEOC rules

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that making rules against individuals speaking another language at work is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, plainly put, you cannot ask that your employees don’t use another language in the workplace when they talk to each other.

The reason for this is because language is an essential part of a person’s national origin, and forcing people to use their non-native languages could expose you, as their employer, to legal liability.

Are there times when you can ask that workers speak English?

Yes. In times when safety could be an issue or when you need the workplace to be efficient with a uniform language, you may be able to ask that English is used during certain times, such as when employees interact with other native-English speakers.

If you are hiring multilingual staff, it’s smart to go over the potential legal issues associated with the use of language before moving forward. Your attorney can help you make rules that don’t violate anyone’s rights by helping you understand what is or is not allowed by law. By knowing these rules, you can prevent your business from facing discrimination claims.