We’ve blogged about corporate translation and corporate interpreting services in the context of workers’ safety in the workplace. As the workplace becomes more and more diverse, an issue that many employers face is whether or not to enforce an ‘English-only’ rule while at work. Of course doing so raises issues of violating federal and/or state laws regarding discrimination based on national origin. First, regardless of what the rules are for speaking in the workplace, if you have foreign language speakers as employees, then all contracts, rules and regulations must include a foreign language translation.
Second, whenever implementing an English only rule, that rule must relate to a legitimate purpose and for nondiscriminatory reasons. In other words, the rule must be justified as a business necessity. For example, a business necessity can be found when requiring English be spoken to customers, in emergencies or safety-related situations or even in collaborative work assignments where a common language is needed for efficiency reasons.
On the other hand, requiring English to be spoken in the break room or with another employee is likely to be found to fall on the discrimination side of the legal spectrum.