- Generally, an employer may only base an employment decision on accent if effective oral communication in English is required to perform job duties and the individual's foreign accent materially interferes with his or her ability to communicate orally in English.
- Jobs that may require effective oral communication in English include teaching, customer service, and telemarketing to English speaking clients.
- If a person has an accent but it is able to communicate effectively and be understood in English, he or she cannot be discriminated against.
- A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified.
- An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.
- Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.
- Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it.
EEOC: Immigrants' Employment Rights Under FederalAnti-Discrimination Laws
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