Can you insist that employees speak English – and when?

by on February 15, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

Put yourself in this situation:

One of your employees, Su Lin, is an immigrant from Shanghai, and lives with her elderly mother. Su Lin frequently calls home to check on her, speaking in the only language the older woman understands – Chinese.

Even though company policy allows Su Lin to make brief personal calls, a couple of her colleagues are unhappy. They approach their manager and suggest that the organization oblige her to speak English while on the job.

The reason: They claim that when customers are in the office and hear Su Lin speaking Chinese on the phone, it bothers them.

So the manager responds by imposing an English-only rule for personal calls.

BIG MISTAKE! What your line manager has done is illegal. There are a couple of legal ways of dealing with the situation – such as requiring that all staff make personal calls where customers cannot hear them – but the manager didn’t know this. And so gave Su Lin good grounds for a lawsuit based on national origin discrimination.

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