Is it discrimination for an employer to offer a Spanish-speaking employee a version of the personnel manual translated in Spanish?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is it discrimination for an employer to offer a Spanish-speaking employee a version of the personnel manual translated in Spanish?

I am assisting a Spanish-speaking individual whose employer claims that by
Montana law he can only ask his employees if they understood the personnel
manual and other on-boarding paperwork provided to them in English or if they
would like it in another format. He claims that to assume they cannot read
English/could read it better in Spanish by asking them if they would like the
personnel manual in Spanish would be discrimination and he is prohibited by law
from doing so. He also claims to not explain anything about the personnel manual
to individuals who cannot read unless they explicitly ask him to read the manual
to them. Is this true? This company hires a lot of Spanish speakers, and it seems
to me it would be fairly straightforward to offer someone who is obviously a
Spanish speaker resources in their his/her native language.

Asked on February 5, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Montana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is nothing wrong or illegal about offering resources in an employee's native language on request, but the employer correct that it may be considered national origin discrimination or harassment to assume that somone who looks, say, Hispanic or Latino cannot read English. In terms of language and anything else related to national origin, the best course for employers is to simply not make any assumptions.

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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