As the immigrant population in the United States increases, it is possible that an employer will hire someone who speaks a language other than English. In some cases, that employer may try to require employees to speak English at work. While not necessarily illegal, the issue has been a source of tension between workers and employers. Employers should be aware that they are not allowed to discriminate against a worker based on national origin.
This is spelled out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the EEOC, forcing an employee to exclusively speak a language other than his or her mother tongue may be discriminatory, and it may put that person at a disadvantage. It may also create workplace conditions in which an employee feels isolated or intimidated by management. However, employers may be able to implement such a rule if there is a valid business reason to do so.
For instance, an employer may require those speaking to an audience who speaks English to also speak English. If such a need exists, employers must notify employees about the policy in advance. Those who are terminated for violating the rule without being notified first may be considered victims of discrimination due to their national origin.
Those who believe that their employers violated any aspect of applicable labor law may wish to talk with an attorney. It may be possible to win compensation in the form of back pay and punitive damages depending on the circumstances in their case. Employees may also be entitled to get their jobs back if they were wrongfully terminated based on their national origin or any other violation of their protected class status. Cases may be resolved through trial or settled outside of court.