California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

"English-only" Policies In The Workplace

Q: Can an employer implement an “English-only” policy in the workplace?

A: Generally speaking, no. California Government Code section 12951 provides that an employer can only implement or enforce a policy that limits or prohibits the use of any language in the workplace unless:
1.The language restriction is justified as a business necessity; and
2.The employer notifies the employees of the circumstances and the time when the language restriction is required to be observed, and the consequences of violating the restriction.
Business necessity is defined by Government Code section 12951 as “an overriding legitimate business purpose such that the language restriction is necessary to the safe and efficient operation of the business, that the language restriction effectively fulfills the business purpose it is supposed to serve, and there is no alternative practice to the language restriction that would accomplish the business purpose equally well with a lesser discriminatory impact.” Companies should not consider implementing “English-only” policies unless they can point to a legitimate safety reason for the restriction.
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