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EEOC speaks out against ‘Language preference’ bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

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.

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