If I was laid off due to the fact that I’m not bilingual, is this illegal?

UPDATED: Jan 10, 2012

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If I was laid off due to the fact that I’m not bilingual, is this illegal?

I have worked there over a year.

Asked on January 10, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It may be legal:

1) First, language is not protected in all states; that is, in many states, it is legal to fire someone due to the languages he or she speaks (or does not speak). For example, while federal law protects someone from employment discrimination due to his or  her race, it does not protect on the basis of language or national origin. Some states will protect against discrimination based on language and/or national origin (which may apply in your case), but not all do this--you need to check the law for your state. (You can repost your question with your state.)

2) Second, even where language is protected--so no firing simply due to a person's language--there is an exception when a certain linguistic ability is required for a job. For example, if you worked in marketing, sales, or outreach (e.g. social programs) to a Spanish-speaking community, then you could be terminated for not speaking Spanish; in that case, being able to speak Spanish is as much a requirement of the job as would be having a driver's license for someone working in deliveries. So if bilinguilism is a legitimate job requirement, then  you could be laid off for not being bilingual, even if you are in state which normally protects against employment discrimiantion on the basis of language.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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