Can I Be Fired Because English Is Not My First Language?

In today’s multicultural society, workers speaking different languages is common. However, can an employer demand that employees speak English only?

Under federal law, an employer cannot discriminate an employee due to their national origin. This means that employers cannot terminate employees for speaking a language other than English unless the job specifically requires English. If an employee speaks another language with customers or colleagues and does not have any issues understanding them, then this should not be grounds for termination.

An employer may be able to require English only at work in certain situations. If an employer can show a business necessity, they may be able to require English. This could include needing to interact regularly with customers to help them understand products or services offered by the employer.

An employer can require an English test as a prerequisite for employment, but this must be related to the specific job requirements. For example, if a position involves interacting with customers and requires strong communication skills in English, then it may be appropriate to require an English test. In such cases, the employer must ensure that the language requirements are applied equally to all employees, regardless of their national origin.

What About Accents?

It is also illegal to discriminate an employee because of their accent. If someone has a heavy accent but is still able to understand instructions and communicate clearly with their coworkers and customers, then they cannot be terminated or disciplined due to their accent alone. Employers need to ensure they are not treating employees differently because of their accent or native language; otherwise, they can face legal consequences.

When Is it Appropriate to Speak English Only?

There are certain instances where it may be necessary or appropriate for an employer to require all staff members to speak English. For example, if there is a safety concern that requires everyone to have the same understanding of instructions given in English—such as on a construction site — then it would be reasonable for an employer to enforce this rule. However, employers must make sure that all staff members are able to understand these instructions in order for it to be fair and safe for everyone involved.

South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Can Protect Your Rights if You Have Faced National Origin Discrimination at Work

Unless English is specifically required to conduct business, most employers cannot terminate an employee because English is not their first language. If you think your rights are being violated at work, speak with our South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call us at 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.