Like many employers, you may have legitimate business reasons for hiring bilingual employees. Federal anti-discrimination laws allow you to target bilingual employees, as long as you use their language skills, not their race or national origin, as the deciding factor.
Best bet: Remind managers to keep national origin out of hiring decisions.
Example: You could be discriminating if you choose an applicant because he is a native Spanish-speaker, but you rejected an equally good applicant who speaks Spanish fluently as a second language.
When reviewing candidates for bilingual jobs, consider all qualified applicants who have the language skills you require, regardless of their national origin, ethnicity or race.
Recent case: After being rejected for a job he sought, a black applicant sued. He argued that the company discriminated against him on the basis of national origin because he wasn't bilingual.
The court tossed out the case. Even if the employer preferred to hire a bilingual employee, that preference alone won't automatically create a discrimination claim, the court said. (Richard-son v. CenterCare Inc., No. 02-Civ-9212, S.D.N.Y., 2005)
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