If you have a good business reason, you can require employees to speak English on the job. But don't go overboard. As a New York City hotel just found out, requiring English be spoken at all times, even in the employee breakroom, can spark an EEOC national-origin claim.
The EEOC recently settled a national-origin claim filed on behalf of a group of Hispanic workers at the Melrose Hotel. The employees will share an $800,000 settlement.
At the heart of the case were allegations that Hispanic employees were subjected to an English-only rule that required them to speak only English at all times, including on break. The hotel agreed to drop its English-only rule and to train supervisors and managers on employment discrimination laws. It will also revise its employee handbook to include a revised policy on the use of English.
Online resource: To read the EEOC's interpretation of a legal English-only policy, go to www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/national-origin.html#VC.
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