Law Offices of Lauren Abrams blog

When English-only rules are considered to be discriminatory

Some California businesses have implemented English-only rules for their workplaces. In some cases, these types of rules may be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While Title VII does not specifically forbid English-only rules, it does forbid discrimination against workers on the basis of their national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has interpreted the regulations under Title VII as prohibiting English-only rules in certain types of situations. The courts have been divided in their decisions regarding these rules, and the states are also divided on the issue.

The EEOC passed regulations that address English-only workplace rules. When the English-only requirements of a workplace are all-encompassing, they are likely to be against the policy of the EEOC. For example, a workplace that forbids workers from ever speaking in their own languages anywhere on the work premises may be found to be discriminatory. Workplaces that have English-only rules at only certain times may be found to be within the confines of the law. The EEOC requires that these employers notify all of their employees before implementing the rules.

Workers who believe they may have been the victims of workplace discrimination may want to meet with an employment law attorney in order to learn more about their employee rights. An attorney may conduct a legal analysis of the facts and then advise the worker about whether or not the employment action appears to have been discriminatory. If it was, the lawyer may then help the client to collect the needed documentary evidence to submit to the EEOC with his or her complaint. The lawyer may also draft and file a lawsuit if the EEOC gives leave to the client to file a lawsuit.

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