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Language Discrimination  

Language discrimination is a subset of national origin discrimination. Language discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of an individual based solely upon the characteristics of their speech; such as, accent, size of vocabulary, and syntax. It can also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another. Because language discrimination is a form of national origin discrimination, the same body of law prohibits it. This type of discrimination generally makes it illegal to prefer one language over another, though there are many exceptions. The driving force behind the illegality of language discrimination is whether or not an individual was hired, fired, or required to speak one language over another for a discriminatory purpose. 1. What is language discrimination? Language discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual solely because of their native language or other characteristics of speech, such as accent, size of vocabulary, and syntax. Language discrimination does not include discrimination based upon an individual's appearance, but rather focuses upon the style of speech used by an individual. Below are some real world examples of language discrimination: You have worked at a company for several years, while on break you are talking with other Chinese coworkers, you usually speak in Cantonese. Your company recently announced a "speak-English-only" policy, and your supervisor has told you not to ever speak Cantonese to your coworkers while at work. A new customer service position opens up in your company. You apply for the job because it pays a higher salary and more regular work hours. Even though you are fluent in English, you are told by the supervisor that you cannot be considered for the position because you speak with a Spanish accent. Another employee who speaks with a British accent is interviewed for the position. English is not your native language, although you are proficient in English and have no difficulty doing your job as a computer programmer. On your last performance review, you received high marks in every area except communication skills. When you ask your supervisor the reason for your low marks, which prevent you from getting a merit raise, you are told the reason is your English skills, even though your job rarely requires you to communicate with coworkers or the public. 2. Is language discrimination illegal, and if so, which federal laws cover language discrimination? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are federal laws that protects individuals from discrimination based upon national origin and race. Some courts and government agencies have said that discrimination based on language is a form of national origin discrimination because primary language is closely related to the place a person comes from. 3. Can I be asked to take an English test in order to be hired? Your employer or potential employer can test your English proficiency (ability to speak or write in English), as long as it tests all applicants. If the employer or potential employer denies someone an employment opportunity because of English proficiency, the employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Whether or not it is illegal to use the English test will depend on the qualifications of the employee, the nature of the position, and whether the employee's level of English proficiency would have a negative effect on job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate the law if the rule is not related to the requirements of the position or job performance, and it appears that the rule was adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin. 4. Can my employer treat me differently for speaking with an accent? An employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying an employment opportunity because of an individual's accent or manner of speaking. Whether the denial is illegal will depend on the qualifications of the person, the nature of the position, and whether the employee's accent or manner of speaking harmed, or would harm their job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and is not related to job performance. This is particularly so if the individual's accent does not impact their ability to successfully communicate in English. A preference for a particular type of accent may also violate the law. For example, if a candidate with a British accent is favored for a receptionist position, while candidates with Cantonese or Spanish accents are rejected, the employer may have engaged in unlawful discrimination by showing a bias against the accent associated with some national origins, but not against others. 5. Can my employer discriminate against me for not communicating well in English? Similar to employees who speak with accents, an employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to deny you of an employment opportunity because of proficiency (how well you speak or write) in English. Whether or not it is illegal to discriminate against you will depend on your qualifications, the nature of the position, and whether your level of English proficiency would have a detrimental effect on your job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and is not related to job performance. 6. Can I be asked not to speak my native language at work or to speak English only? A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job can violate the law, if it has been adopted for a discriminatory reason or if, is not uniformly enforced, or if it is not necessary for conducting business. For example, an employer may not adopt an English-only rule as a pretext for getting rid of Latino workers. Similarly, an Employer may not selectively enforce an English-only rules (for example, enforce the rule against workers who speak Mandarin but not workers who speak Spanish.) As long as the English-only rule is not motivated by discriminatory intent, it will be considered legal so long as it is necessary for the safe or efficient operation of the business.
IMPROVING COMMUNICATION WITH NON-NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS
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IMPROVING COMMUNICATION WITH NON-NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS

Language

Discrimination  

Language discrimination is a subset of national origin discrimination. Language discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of an individual based solely upon the characteristics of their speech; such as, accent, size of vocabulary, and syntax. It can also involve a person's ability or inability to use one language instead of another. Because language discrimination is a form of national origin discrimination, the same body of law prohibits it. This type of discrimination generally makes it illegal to prefer one language over another, though there are many exceptions. The driving force behind the illegality of language discrimination is whether or not an individual was hired, fired, or required to speak one language over another for a discriminatory purpose. 1. What is language discrimination? Language discrimination is the unfair treatment of an individual solely because of their native language or other characteristics of speech, such as accent, size of vocabulary, and syntax. Language discrimination does not include discrimination based upon an individual's appearance, but rather focuses upon the style of speech used by an individual. Below are some real world examples of language discrimination: You have worked at a company for several years, while on break you are talking with other Chinese coworkers, you usually speak in Cantonese. Your company recently announced a "speak-English-only" policy, and your supervisor has told you not to ever speak Cantonese to your coworkers while at work. A new customer service position opens up in your company. You apply for the job because it pays a higher salary and more regular work hours. Even though you are fluent in English, you are told by the supervisor that you cannot be considered for the position because you speak with a Spanish accent. Another employee who speaks with a British accent is interviewed for the position. English is not your native language, although you are proficient in English and have no difficulty doing your job as a computer programmer. On your last performance review, you received high marks in every area except communication skills. When you ask your supervisor the reason for your low marks, which prevent you from getting a merit raise, you are told the reason is your English skills, even though your job rarely requires you to communicate with coworkers or the public. 2. Is language discrimination illegal, and if so, which federal laws cover language discrimination? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are federal laws that protects individuals from discrimination based upon national origin and race. Some courts and government agencies have said that discrimination based on language is a form of national origin discrimination because primary language is closely related to the place a person comes from. 3. Can I be asked to take an English test in order to be hired? Your employer or potential employer can test your English proficiency (ability to speak or write in English), as long as it tests all applicants. If the employer or potential employer denies someone an employment opportunity because of English proficiency, the employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Whether or not it is illegal to use the English test will depend on the qualifications of the employee, the nature of the position, and whether the employee's level of English proficiency would have a negative effect on job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate the law if the rule is not related to the requirements of the position or job performance, and it appears that the rule was adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin. 4. Can my employer treat me differently for speaking with an accent? An employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying an employment opportunity because of an individual's accent or manner of speaking. Whether the denial is illegal will depend on the qualifications of the person, the nature of the position, and whether the employee's accent or manner of speaking harmed, or would harm their job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and is not related to job performance. This is particularly so if the individual's accent does not impact their ability to successfully communicate in English. A preference for a particular type of accent may also violate the law. For example, if a candidate with a British accent is favored for a receptionist position, while candidates with Cantonese or Spanish accents are rejected, the employer may have engaged in unlawful discrimination by showing a bias against the accent associated with some national origins, but not against others. 5. Can my employer discriminate against me for not communicating well in English? Similar to employees who speak with accents, an employer must show a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to deny you of an employment opportunity because of proficiency (how well you speak or write) in English. Whether or not it is illegal to discriminate against you will depend on your qualifications, the nature of the position, and whether your level of English proficiency would have a detrimental effect on your job performance. Requiring employees or applicants to be fluent in English may violate Title VII if the rule is adopted to exclude individuals of a particular national origin and is not related to job performance. 6. Can I be asked not to speak my native language at work or to speak English only? A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job can violate the law, if it has been adopted for a discriminatory reason or if, is not uniformly enforced, or if it is not necessary for conducting business. For example, an employer may not adopt an English-only rule as a pretext for getting rid of Latino workers. Similarly, an Employer may not selectively enforce an English-only rules (for example, enforce the rule against workers who speak Mandarin but not workers who speak Spanish.) As long as the English-only rule is not motivated by discriminatory intent, it will be considered legal so long as it is necessary for the safe or efficient operation of the business.
© SAY WHAT ENGLISH 
INFO@SAYWHATENGLISH.COM