Q: Can an employer require you to speak English at all times even during private conversations among coworkers?
My job recently implemented an English-only rule. I work at a fast food place and while English is the language most spoken by our employees, we do have quite a few employees who speak only speak Spanish. Is it legal to require them to speak English at all times while on the clock? Management says that we must speak English even in private conversations. I believe it is perfectly reasonable to be required to speak English while taking orders and interacting with customers, but these employees were hired with management knowing they struggle with English. Is this legal?
An English only policy is forbidden under California law. Employers with at least five employees cannot limit or prohibit the use of any language in the workplace, except in rare circumstances when they can demonstrate a legitimate business necessity do so.
Good luck to you.
Brad S Kane agrees with this answer
1 user found this answer helpful
English-only rules are never lawful under the FEHA during an employee's non-work time, such as meal and rest breaks. [2 CCR § 11028(a)(4)]
An “English only” rule is proper where necessary to safe and efficient operation of the business and no alternative practice will accomplish the business purpose equally well with less discriminatory impact. [Gov.C. § 12951(b)]
This may apply, for example:
— in work involving a high risk of injury or accidents (e.g., during surgery, or at a laboratory, or oil drilling, mining or construction site); or
— where necessary to enable English-speaking supervisors to monitor employee communications to ensure efficient work and appropriate behavior; or
— where necessary for communication with customers, coworkers and supervisors who speak only English.
1 user found this answer helpful
A: An English-only policy is illegal unless it is enacted for the safety of employees and customers. If such a policy applies to conversations outside of customer interactions as you describe, you may have a case for discrimination on the basis of national-origin. Schedule an appointment with an experienced discrimination attorney who offers free consultations to discuss your legal options.
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.