Can employer require me to speak Spanish?

I believe my hours were cut because I am not bilingual; I don’t speak Spanish. I asked my employer for help with Spanish, and he asked me why I didn’t bring my Spanish dictionary. Can they do this?

Posted  10-07-2013

Steve Duggan replies:

I’m afraid they probably can. Although broad “English Only” rules at work are prohibited, they are allowed where there is a business-related reason for the rule, such as for safety reasons or the ability to communicate with customers. Important things to know in your situation would be whether that was part of the job description when you were hired, or a recent change, and if the latter, the reason for the change. If there is no legitimate reason for the new rule, you may be able to challenge it. I suggest that you speak to HR about it, and then you can also make an appointment to speak to an EEOC or DFEH intake agent, or a local employment attorney, if you feel you need more information. Good luck!

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.