It’s not just about “English-only” rules anymore. Now employers have to worry if they discriminate among the different languages they allow employees to speak at work.
The EEOC recently settled a complaint against a New York nursing home that allowed employees to speak several languages among themselves but drew the line at Creole (spoken by some Haitian employees). That language discrimination cost the company a $900,000 settlement.
According to the EEOC, the company had no business justification for its policy of allowing other languages to be spoken while banning Creole.
Language-related discrimination complaints are increasing. They accounted for only 32 EEOC charges in 1996, but that number has grown six-fold since then.
Final tip: Don’t restrict other languages at work unless you have a solid business reason. For more information, see the language-bias guidance on the EEOC’s Web site, www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/national-origin.html#VC.