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Legal Document Translation Services Prevent Language Discrimination in the Workplace

Legal document translation services and onsite legal language interpreting services play an important role in language discrimination cases. As the number of foreign-language speaking individuals in the U.S. workforce continues to grow, so does the potential for language discrimination in the workplace.

Employers should be mindful that there are numerous laws which protect employees who cannot communicate in English and that violating such laws can lead to costly and time-consuming legal disputes.

Not surprisingly, discrimination lawsuits are not only expensive to defend, but they can quickly sully a respected business’ reputation. So how can employers avoid lawsuits and allegations of language discrimination and ensure a workplace that is welcoming to its foreign language-speaking employees?

1. Educate, educate, educate. In order to abide by anti-discrimination laws designed to protect foreign language speaking employees, employers must know what the laws are in the first place. Make the time to become familiar with any and all laws targeting language discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from national origin discrimination. (National origin discrimination and language discrimination usually go hand in hand.) Be sure to review any and all state and local laws.

2. Think twice about mandating that employees only speak English. Businesses who employ such policies have been, and are likely to find themselves, embroiled in an EEOC investigation.

According to the EEOC’s website, “[t]he EEOC has stated that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless the employer can show that they are justified by business necessity”.

According to the EEOC, an English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently. Examples of English-only rules that the EEOC has stated might not be discriminatory include rules requiring English to be spoken during emergencies or in situations where workers must promote safety.

3. Know that neglecting to hire someone because of their accent can be discrimination, too. Employers cannot bypass hiring prospective employees because they have an accent unless it “materially interferes” with being able to perform the job. According to the EEOC, if a person is able to communicate and be understood in English, they cannot be discriminated against simply because they have an accent.

4. Have an open door policy. Make sure that the foreign-language speaking employees are able to freely express workplace complaints if and when they arise. Often times, solutions can be implemented before disputes escalate to expensive and time-consuming litigation.

Inform employees that they are welcome to offer suggestions for improving their work environment and then take the appropriate action if and when issues do arise. Tell employees to report any and all forms of discrimination to upper management immediately. Let them know that you value their input and that you want the workplace to be free of discrimination.

5. Forster a culture that is welcoming to foreign-language speaking employees. Educate supervisors and managers about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the EEOC’s guidelines along with any applicable state or local rules. Make sure that supervisors and managers are aware of the fact that employees are not expected to speak English at all times and that they follow the law accordingly. Encourage supervisors and managers to report any and all problems interacting with foreign-language speaking employees to upper management as soon as they arise.

6. Be sure that foreign language speaking employees can understand any workplace notices, policies, etc. For assistance with translating employment contracts, handbooks, notices, or other employment-related documents, contact our legal document translation service with experience in handling employment-related document translations in many languages.

*This legal language blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.*

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