A good friend of mine was a managing a finance department in a large pharmaceutical company and had two Latina employees in her department who used to communicate with each other in Spanish.
My finance-manager friend, slightly older and a bit more educated than these two employees of hers, called me to ask if she could MANDATE that they speak in English - and only English - while at work!
She said, “I’m pretty sure I can, but can you just verify for me, Rue, that I can require them to stop go
ssiping in Spanish and speak English. This is may be Florida, but it is still America, after all.”
I swallowed, shivered, took a deep breath and explained flatly,
“Sofia-Isabella Fernandez-Cortez! I am a little surprised at you” I said.
“Be very careful about imposing English-only rules on employees. Restricting language could give the appearance of discriminating against employees because of their national origin, a clear violation of Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).
It is okay to expect employees to speak English during certain periods of time, as long as you have a business need for doing so. Examples of business need include things like safety, or using English with English-speaking customers.
Courts tend to give employers plenty latitude when the English-only rules make sense, but to reduce gossip of which you are afraid you’re the subject…not so much!”
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