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  1. #1
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    English Only Policies

    "If it is not relevant to a job" is it discrimination to require employees to speak English?

    The EEOC has sued the Salvation Army because its thrift store in Framingham, Mass., required its employees to speak English on the job. The requirement was clearly posted and employees were given a year to learn the language. The EEOC claimed the store had fired two Hispanic employees for continuing to speak Spanish on the job. It said that the firings violated the law because the English-only policy was not "relevant" to job performance or safety.

    Link:
    OpinionJournal - John Fund on the Trail



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Absolutely not it isn't discrimination. Obviously this salvation army store knows that the majority of it's customers are going to be English speaking and not Spanish, so it's very understandable that they would want English speaking employees. Same as when you see "Bilingual applicants only" on job postings, if a job is in a predominantly Spanish area, or caters to primarily people who speak Spanish it wouldn't be unreasonable to require that from your employees.

    I would say this store went above and beyond their duty in allowing their employees an entire year in which to learn the language.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Would I move to Mexico, and expect to only speak English while working? No.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    A little more on the actual case:

    FRAMINGHAM - FRAMINGHAM - While they worked at the Salvation Army's thrift store in downtown in 2004, managers chastised Dolores Escorbor and Maria del Carmen Perdomo for speaking Spanish among themselves, said federal officials.

    "They were told, in more than one occasion, not to speak Spanish," said Estela Diaz, trial attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's New York office, which has filed a suit for discrimination against the Salvation Army on behalf of Escorbor and Perdomo.

    "These two women spoke little to no English and were told to speak English," said Diaz. "If you're a teacher or you deal with customers, you may have to speak English, but for Escorbor and Perdomo, speaking English was not necessary to do their jobs."
    Both Escorbor, 56, who hails from the Dominican Republic, and Perdomo, 47, a native of El Salvador, worked at the thrift store sorting clothes since 1999. For nearly five years, the women spoke Spanish to communicate with each other, and they were good employees, Diaz said.

    But in 2004, the suit said, the Salvation Army enforced a written English- language policy and asked employees who could not speak English adequately to learn English. In December 2005, according to the suit, both Escorbor and Perdomo were fired for "failing to learn English and for speaking Spanish."

    For the EEOC, the actions of the well-known charity were in this case "unlawful employment practices,"

    Source: Lawyer speaks out on Salvation Army suit - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News

    It seems that they were not working with customers, so the customer-interaction argument brought up in this thread is probably not valid. It seems more like new management came in that was somehow bothered or threatened by a couple of ladies speaking Spanish among themselves. In this case I donít really see any logical reason for managementís decision, but they are free to enforce any existing policy they want. And this seems to have been a written policy that was in place but just not enforced for five years.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Speaking of legal immigrants here, as illegals have no sympathy in my book. I think that assimilation is very important to the quality of life of immigrants. Being able to converse and read our language comfortably helps them to succeed in our society, and to feel comfortable. Honestly, it also feels more comfortable to people working around them too.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclonepride View Post
    Speaking of legal immigrants here, as illegals have no sympathy in my book. I think that assimilation is very important to the quality of life of immigrants. Being able to converse and read our language comfortably helps them to succeed in our society, and to feel comfortable. Honestly, it also feels more comfortable to people working around them too.
    I also assume these are legal immigrants, and I very much agree with you that in order to succeed you need English, so it is in immigrants' own best interest to speak English well. In the linked case, it seems like it deals with women who may have come here in their 40s or even 50s, and even though they have probably picked up quite a bit of English, they will likely never be as comfortable conversing in English as Spanish. Their measure of success is also likely to be able to take care of their families at home and earning some extra income outside the home. If their children are also uncomfortable speaking English in the workplace, that would be a much bigger concern.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    If an employer can't discriminate based on knowing the English language, does this mean that if an employer has non-English speaking employees from Korea, Russia, France, and Mexico then he needs to learn Korean, Russian, French and Spanish to be able to communicate with them? As a bleeding heart living in Arizona, I'm sympathetic to the (legal) immigrants trying to build a life in the U.S., but this is ridiculous.


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    Re: English Only Policies

    I have reproduced a portion of the EEOC Compliance Manual below:

    In evaluating whether to adopt an English-only rule, an employer should weigh business justifications for the rule against possible discriminatory effects of the rule. While there is no precise test for making this evaluation, relevant considerations include:
    • Evidence of safety justifications for the rule
    • Evidence of other business justifications for the rule, such as supervision or effective communication with customers
    • Likely effectiveness of the rule in carrying out objectives
    • English proficiency of workers affected by the rule
    An employer should ensure that affected employees are notified about an English-only rule and the consequences for violation. The employer may provide notice by any reasonable means under the circumstances, such as a meeting, e-mail, or posting. In some cases, it may be necessary for an employer to provide notice in English and in the other native languages spoken by its workers. A grace period before the effective date of the rule also may be required to ensure that all workers have received notice.

    Link:
    Compliance Manual Section 13: National Origin Discrimination



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Quote Originally Posted by CloneFan65 View Post
    If an employer can't discriminate based on knowing the English language, does this mean that if an employer has non-English speaking employees from Korea, Russia, France, and Mexico then he needs to learn Korean, Russian, French and Spanish to be able to communicate with them? As a bleeding heart living in Arizona, I'm sympathetic to the (legal) immigrants trying to build a life in the U.S., but this is ridiculous.
    You seem to be talking about a somewhat different issue than the case alaskaguy linked. There is no indication that the two ladies involved could not communicate with their employer in English. The issue was whether the employer could forbid them to talk in Spanish among themselves.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    I'll change the thread topic from employment practices to discriminating by "discouraging patronage by non-English speaking customers."

    An English-only ordering policy at one of the city’s most famous cheesesteak joints drew a warning Monday from officials who threatened to file a discrimination complaint.

    The city’s Commission on Human Relations planned to argue that the policy at Geno’s Steaks discourages customers of certain backgrounds from eating there, said Rachel Lawton, acting executive director.

    Geno’s owner Joseph Vento posted two small signs at his shop in south Philadelphia proclaiming: “This is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING ’PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH.”’

    Lawton said that violates the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing.

    “It’s discouraging patronage by non-English speaking customers because of their national origin or ancestry,” Lawton said.

    Vento, 66, whose grandparents struggled to learn English after arriving from Sicily in the 1920s, said Monday that he is not discriminating and has no intention of giving in. “I would say they would have to handcuff me and take me out because I’m not taking it down,” Vento said.

    He said no customer had ever been turned away because of the policy.

    Lawton said the restaurant would probably be served with the complaint on Monday or Tuesday. She did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Monday evening.

    Lawton said the restaurant could be ordered to take down the signs or face fines. The dispute could end up in court.

    Vento says that if his customers order in any other language, he'll give them Cheez Whiz on bread.

    Links:
    Philly eatery's English-only sign under fire - Life - MSNBC.com

    Geno's Steaks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Last edited by alaskaguy; 11-20-2007 at 12:07 PM.

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    Re: English Only Policies

    That's a pretty important legal battle there. I can see where the signs are somewhat confrontational, but how does a business, especially a small business, deal with the large variety of languages potentially spoken by customers? It's a Pandora's box that I'm pretty sure we don't want to open. Do they force him to make menus available in every language?



  12. #12
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    Re: English Only Policies

    Quote Originally Posted by iceclone View Post
    You seem to be talking about a somewhat different issue than the case alaskaguy linked. There is no indication that the two ladies involved could not communicate with their employer in English. The issue was whether the employer could forbid them to talk in Spanish among themselves.
    I read the linked article, but perhaps I misinterpreted the policy. I guess I interpreted the requirement of employees to speak English to mean "have the ability" to speak English, which makes sense. But if they're saying that employees aren't allowed to speak languages other than English on the job, that's silly. I don't see any problem with two Spanish-speaking employees conversing in their native language. But if they aren't able to communicate with the employer or with other co-workers due to not being able to speak English, that's another issue.


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  13. #13
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    Re: English Only Policies

    No wonder I was confused. Look at the headline:

    "Nancy Pelosi tries to force the Salvation Army to hire people who can't speak English" (boldface added)

    But in the body of the article it sounds like what you were saying iceclone. Another example of WSJ's unbiased reporting. (I know it's on the opinion page, but that's a very misleading headline as to the facts of the situation.)


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    Re: English Only Policies

    "These two women spoke little to no English and were told to speak English," said Diaz.
    I think that would be a problem trying to communicate with their boss if they don't speak the same language. It says that right in the text that iceclone posted. I'd take that to mean they couldn't communicate in English.



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    Re: English Only Policies

    Quote Originally Posted by CloneFan65 View Post
    No wonder I was confused. Look at the headline:

    "Nancy Pelosi tries to force the Salvation Army to hire people who can't speak English" (boldface added)

    But in the body of the article it sounds like what you were saying iceclone. Another example of WSJ's unbiased reporting. (I know it's on the opinion page, but that's a very misleading headline as to the facts of the situation.)
    I agree, the WSJ headline is very misleading. I found a more detailed article on the case that I linked in post #4 above (from a local newspaper). It paints a somewhat different picture.



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