Multilingual Legal Translation Services
and Compelled Speech in the Workplace

Legal Translation Services to Accommodate Compelled Speech

We’ve blogged about legal translation and multilingual deposition interpreting services in the context of the EEOC guidelines that recognize two classes of English-only rules. From one point of view, the cultural tolerance requirements of the EEOC could be viewed as a form of compelled speech – and courts have traditionally shown hostility towards any form of directly compelled expression.

However, making the case that an English-only rule is a form of compelled speech can be difficult, as the compelled nature is often subtle. This is because although the EEOC does require cultural tolerance to an extent, it by no means requires an employee to sign a pledge stating they support everyone’s right to speak in their native language.

The issue of compelled speech is actually more likely to arise on the employer’s side. It is the employer who is deprived of their prerogative to set the cultural agenda at the workplace, due the EEOC Guidelines. In other words, they are now forced to take specific steps, often at costs (such as foreign language translation and interpreting services) in order to accommodate cultural practices at work – even if they object to them.

Is this being overly cautious? Not likely. In fact, employers are smart to go out of their way to limit liability for having a hostile work place. For example, in the case of Maldonado v. City of Altus, the court held that an English-only policy may be evidence of an intent to create a hostile work environment. So, with this case in mind, employers could argue that they feel compelled to take actions which they object to.

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