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What is “language discrimination”?

Most employers and employees are aware that certain types of discrimination are illegal – such as race or gender. However, they may not be aware of how different policies or practices that appear neutral may be illegal as well.

One area is “language discrimination” which may constitute improper and illegal race or national origin discrimination contrary to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Language discrimination can arise in a variety of situations. For example, requiring that workers speak English only, or that they speak it at a certain level of fluency may constitute discrimination. If employees are required to speak only English, an employer must provide a valid business reason for such demand. This may include where the employee has to communicate with customers, or coworkers who only speak English, or where workplace emergency/safety protocols require workers to speak English to prevent unnecessary dangers. English only rules have also been allowed where required to promote efficiency. However, without a specific and valid business rationale, such rules may constitute employment discrimination.

Further having an accent should not have an impact on your job, whether being hired, fired or promoted, except in the rarest of situations such as in a customer service role where customers are unable to understand the employee. However, minor inconveniences such as requesting that an employee repeat him or herself is not sufficient. Further simply because other employees don’t like or feel uncomfortable around employees who speak other languages does not make it okay to discriminate. If you believe that you have suffered “language discrimination” or any other type of workplace discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal, LLP for an immediate consultation.
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