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EEOC considers English-only rule to be discriminatory

Many New York residents who are searching for work do not speak English. This is especially true for recent immigrants. Because the immigrant population is increasing, some employers have added rules that require employees to only speak English in the workplace.

These rules make it very difficult to distinguish discrimination, especially if a prospective employee has a cultural background and upbringing that does not involve speaking or learning English. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans any sort of employment discrimination based on national origin; however, an employer may be able to use the guise of the English-only rule to discriminate against a nationality.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission passed regulations under Title VII that the English-only rule creates a discriminatory environment. However, employers who enact an English-only rule that is only in effect at certain times is allowed if there is a necessity for the employee to speak English. The employer must provide a notice to employees before this rule is enacted. Some courts agree with the EEOC regulations and may favor former employers who were fired for failing to speak English. Some other courts, however, have argued that the EEOC regulations contradict Congress' intent and deny claims put forth by former employees.

Workplace discrimination could be directed at an employee's age, race, gender or national origin among many other protected classes. If an employee is fired for speaking their native language or for requesting leave, they may have a case against their employer. An attorney may assist the former employee by attempting to prove that he or she was fired in retaliation for violating an unfair English-only rule. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, the attorney may help with seeking compensation for lost income and other damages.

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