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Virginia Bill Would Allow Employers To Fire Employees Who Do Not Speak English

Published by on January 17, 2008

The Washington Post reports today that “a Republican state senator from Fairfax County [Virginia] has introduced a proposal that would allow a boss to fire employees who don’t speak English in the workplace, which would make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.”  The bill was introduced ostensibly to protect employers from increased unemployment tax assessments in such cases.  […]

The Washington Post reports today that “a Republican state senator from Fairfax County [Virginia] has introduced a proposal that would allow a boss to fire employees who don’t speak English in the workplace, which would make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.”  The bill was introduced ostensibly to protect employers from increased unemployment tax assessments in such cases.  Even if the measure passes, the decision to terminate the employee would still have to pass muster with the EEOC (if challenged).   The EEOC takes the position that a blanket English-only rule is discriminatory.

The EEOC Compliance Manual has a section on English-only rules here.  It is worth reading.  Employers should keep in mind, however, that the Compliance Manual takes a more aggressive stance toward such policies than the federal case law might warrant in your jurisdiction.

Not surprisingly, there is a plethora of blog posts on the topic of English-only rules:

Nolo’s Employment Law Blog — Salvation Army English-only lawsuit

Workplace Prof Blog — 2005 post on topic

Ohio Employer’s Law Blog — English-only workplaces spark lawsuits

George’s Employment Blog — English-only policies and the melting pot (not)

Manpower Employment Blog — informal poll results on English-only policies

California Employee Rights Blog — discusses attempts by Congress to legalize English-only policies (and notes that California law is more restrictive, in any event)

Wall Street Journal Blog — post on same Congressional action last November.

It goes without saying that employers should carefully analyze the need and justification for such a policy before implementing it.

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