Discrimination by Nationality

Discrimination by Nationality and Rules of English Only


The immigrant population of the united States continues to grow and, for many immigrants, English is not their first language. The reaction to the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity of a nation in the place of work is the emergence of standards that require employees to speak only English on the job. These standards are disadvantaged by the Commission for Equality of Opportunities in Employment (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC), the federal agency that enforces antidiscrimination laws in the workplace. The judicial decisions with respect to the subject are not always aligned, so that for employers and employees is difficult to understand the current state of the law.

The rules of the language as a form of discrimination

The complicated-looking of the rules that state that you should only speak in English is that it is difficult to distinguish them from acts of discrimination against people whose cultural knowledge does not include the English language. The civil rights laws, particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of nationality. However, an employer can get involved in a case of discrimination by prohibiting to speak in another language that is not English, and to punish employees who violate such prohibition. This is because there is very probably the only people who infringe the rules on the English language are immigrants.

The EEOC and the rules on the use of the English language only

To combat cases of discrimination on grounds of nationality that may occur as a result of the rules of use of the English language only, the EEOC promulgated regulations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These regulations recognize that the primary language is often an essential feature of nationality. These regulations first address the standards of use of the English language, only existing in the workplace at all times. To avoid that an employee to talk in the language you feel most comfortable with, the employer that the employee is at a disadvantage in regard to employment opportunities. Employers also can create an environment of isolation, inferiority and intimidation that translates into an attitude of discrimination in the work environment. As a result, the rules that establish the use of the English language at all times violate Title VII by limiting employment opportunities, and create an environment of discrimination on the basis of nationality.

It is permissible for a statement of periodic use of the English language only when the employer can demonstrate that there is a business need for this standard. An example can be a set payment in which the employee must speak as is the case of a music scheduler for a radio station, in which the employer seeks specifically to reach an audience that speaks English. The regulations of the EEOC also require that an employer notify its employees before implementing a policy on the strict use of English in connection with a business need. If the employer fails to do so and dismisses an employee for breach of the rule, the Commission will consider the actions of the employer as evidence of discrimination by nationality.

Court decisions and state laws

The rules of the EEOC to take a strong position that disfavours the standards of use of the English language only. In contrast, certain courts that are consistent with these standards showed a tendency to favor plaintiffs who have been fired for violating such rules. However, according to other courts, the rules of the EEOC contradict the intent of Congress, because this was never treat the rules of use of the English language only in the Title VII (the basis of the regulations of the EEOC). Therefore, these courts rejected claims by workers who have been laid off in accordance with the rules of use of the English language only.

Like the courts, the positions of the states differ with regard to the question of the use of the English language only. Some states take a stand for the use of other languages in addition to English. For example, various states have enacted bills to help people who do not speak English get government benefits. Others have opted for the opposite direction, by making the English as the official language of the state and fight against the efforts of those who seek to be more inclusive.

The rules that impose the use of the English language only generate the segmentation of the employees to prohibit the part of the workers to express their cultural identity. The general rules in force at all times, are especially severe because they suggest that there is something inferior or subversive in other languages and the people who speak it. That is why these standards are presumed to be invalid. The rules on the use of the English language can only be applicable in limited circumstances, provided that they are not a pretext for discrimination on the basis of nationality. If you have questions about the rules of the English language only in their place of work, or if you believe that you or a loved one has been discriminated against in employment, contact a lawyer specializing in the rights of employees to speak about their situation and protect your legal rights.

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