Workplace English-Only Rules

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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Most Common Employment Law Issues:

Is An Employer Allowed To Ask About Language Skills When I Apply For Work?

A potential employer can inquire into your fluency to speak or write a certain language, as long as these qualifications are related to the prospective job. However, prior to employment, an employer should not ask questions regarding:

Can My Employer Require Me To Speak Only English at Work?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) allows English-only rules in the workplace, as long as such a requirement has a business-related purpose and does not apply during an employee's break period. Many employers are advised not to set unnecessary language-related rules due to laws that protect workers from discrimination based on national origin; and, in many cases, there is a strong connection between language and national origin.

What Is A Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

In response to a discrimination claim, your employer can justify its actions by showing the existence of a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Your employer must demonstrate that prohibiting non-English languages in the workplace is reasonably necessary to the operation of the business.

Are There Laws Against English-Only Rules in the Workplace?

U.S. laws relating to language requirements at work take into consideration the idea that English-only rules could create an uncomfortable, intimidating, and divided workplace environment. Although there is a BFOQ exception to employment discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that workplace decisions cannot be based upon:

Additionally, many states have also implemented local laws pertaining to your equal opportunity rights at work.

Do I Need An Employment Lawyer?

If you have been mistreated at work or have concerns regarding your employer's language policies, you should consider speaking with an attorney who can inform you of your employment rights.

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Last Modified: 06-06-2012 04:00 PM PDT

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