What to do if I am not supposed to speak spanish at work?

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What to do if I am not supposed to speak spanish at work?

I am a volunteer firefighter. While we are working I understand, we are not supposed to speak spanish. However, if after work we are speaking Spanish, can our chief can tell us not to do so just because he does not like it? Is this legal?

Asked on June 10, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Your chief needs to clarify his "English only" rule and visit with HR before he makes this an absolute rule.  Employers can place restrictions on how people are to communicate on work projects, with customers, and with venders.  Essentially, if the function involves communicating with other people, and effective communication is important to that function, then it is not unreasonable for an employer to impose a limited "English only rule."  However, the rule must be tailored as discussed above.  Employer cannot globally ban all non-English communications.  For example, if you are visiting with a friend in the breakroom while on your lunch break, then there is no justification for the "English only" rule, and the department could face a discrimination lawsuit for such a global ban on Spanish.


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