Can I be fired for speaking English?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I be fired for speaking English?

I speak only fluent English. I was hired almost 4 months ago as manager at a European

market, and have been told I am doing very well. New Link Destination
day at closing, my boss called me and says I am being

Asked on March 23, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

There is no simple answer. As a general matter, an employer may not discriminate against an employee due to national origin, and discrminating against them in employment due to their language is generally held to be equivalent to national origin discrimination, so typically, you could not be fired for only speaking fluent english. But there are exceptions, if the employer can establish that speaking another langauge is a critical part of the job--for example, a social worker or program coordinatory serving a heavily hispanic community can legally be required to be bilingual in Spanish as well as speaking English. It is possible that in this situation, IF the customers of the market are heavily made of native russian speakers, that speaking russian would be a legitimate part of the job. There is no harm or cost to you in contacting either the federal EEOC or yoru state's equal/civil rights agency to file a complaint: if there is something to the complaint, the agency may pursue it for you, or else recommend that you hire a private attorney to pursue it; and if there is nothing to it, the agency will so advise you but it will cost you nothing. Therefore, you should reach out to one or both agencies.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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