Requiring foreign language skills isn’t discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Do you need some employees to speak a foreign language? Don’t worry that requiring fluency could be viewed as discrimination.

Recent case: When Russian airline Aeroflot had to downsize its New York office, it terminated a Hispanic employee who didn’t speak Russian.

She sued, alleging that she was fired because she wasn’t of Russian national origin. Among her claims was that the Russian manager told her that she was fired because she didn’t speak Russian. She argued this meant he was targeting her because she was Hispanic and not Russian.

The court quickly dismissed her claim. It reasoned that there are plenty of non-Russians who manage to speak Russian. Therefore, terminating someone because of a lack of language skills isn’t the same as terminating her for being Hispanic. (Arnow, et al., v. Aeroflot, No. 11 Civ. 5460, SD NY, 2013)

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