Can I be fired for not speaking fluent Spanish?

Language was not talked about during the interview or job offer. I guess my manager assumed I spoke Spanish because of my last name and looks. I am Puerto Rican but I speak English and only know and understand basic Spanish. I felt like I was reprimanded yesterday by my boss because my co-worker was constantly going to her to complain about having to translate for me everyday. I work in a hospital clinic so I don’t feel comfortable talking to patients knowing that I speak limited Spanish because it can be a safety issue.

Asked on February 4, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

This situation really does not seem to constitute a case of actionable discrimination. So unless you have an employment contract or union agreement that offers you protection under the circumstances, yes you can be fired for not speaking Spanish. In fact, in an "at will" employment setting, you can be fired for that reason, any reason or no reason at all. For the most part, employers can set the conditions of the workplace much as they sees fit or deem neccesary.


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