Translations for Human Resources and Risk Management Departments, and Using Foreign Language Translations to Create Enforceable Employee Handbooks

Although there is no set rule as to whether or not an employment contract, or Employee Handbook, or Employee Manual, or Employee Guide need to be translated into the employee’s language– it’s simply good practice to do so.

Several jurisdictions have held if an employee cannot understand the Employee Handbook, or Employee Manual, due to an inability to understand or read English, then the terms of the Employee Handbook are unenforceable.

The general reasoning for this decision stems from the fact an Employee Handbook is a contract. As a contract, it cannot be enforced unless all the parties involved understand its terms. If the employee is unable to read English, then he/ she cannot understand the terms of the Employee Handbook. Thus, its terms are unenforceable pursuant to the general laws of contracts.

Attorneys who represent employers should ensure that when a non-English speaker is hired, a foreign language translation of all employment documents, including the Employee Handbook, is provided to that LEP (Limited English Proficiency) employee.

The LEP employee should be given a copy of the foreign language translation to review. If agreeable, the employee should sign both the foreign language translation and the English original. Copies of both should be maintained by the employer and the employee.

See Haggar Clothing Co. v. Hernandez, 164 S.W.3d 386 (Tex. 2005).

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