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Is it legal to restrict what language is spoken at your workplace?

By TomSal ·
I'd like to toss this out there and see what comes back. We have several spanish speaking employees, they talk fluent US-English as well. Through the majority of the day they are speaking english but at certain times (lunch, when they look irritated, walking side by side down the hallways, etc.) they talk in spanish to each other.

Well it appears that some folks in the company are not liking this and they are getting offensive, claiming that the spanish talk is used to say derogatory things against the company as a whole or specific individuals who work here.

Now HR is looking into legal issues for possibly mandating an "English only while in the building" policy of sorts.

This has nothing to do with me, personally I really don't care because A) If I don't understand what you are saying -- how can I be offended? and B) If you are going to be "brave" enough to speak bad at someone -- have the guts to say it in the language they understand and right to their face. (oh and C) If I really wanted to know if someone is insulting me I can just ask my best friend who speaks 5 languages in addition to English fluently, which comes in handy at times..lol)

Btw, this proposed policy hasn't been announced company wide -- only myself and like 4 other folks know its even being considered so far.

Case in point: Is this legal? Isn't it considered a form of discrimination or violation of free speech rights at least to say you must only speak "the language of the company" when at work?

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What kind of company

by Cactus Pete In reply to Is it legal to restrict w ...

Public or private? I should think that would make the difference. If they make a blanket statement that applies to the business as a whole, then there you go...

I can see it being made as "all business shall be conducted in English" but I doubt they can regulate any personal speech.

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Its a private company

by TomSal In reply to What kind of company

I tend to agree, I don't think (at least in the USA) that you can regulate private speech.

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Business / private chat

by LiamE In reply to Its a private company

There is a clear distinction between the 2 and I beleive its equally as clear what the business can insist on.

Any company can insist that all business conversation is conducted in a language of their choosing. The reasons for wanting, indeed needing, to do this include safety and the need to avoid comunication errors where possible.

When it comes to private chat, if the guys want to chat in swahili or klingon its no business of their employers. You might as well try to ban any conversation in the office building that is not overheard by at least one company representative, or the use of any slang, or wispering etc. No chance.

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Business is business!

by davidg In reply to Business / private chat

An employer can ban anything they choose to ban on company property. If you choose to work there, you follow their rules. A company policy, unless in "violation" of a law, will be enforced. Like a dress code stating no tennis shoes will be worn on company property. You can go to lunch, as long as you leave the building and wear tennis shoes, but as long as you "choose" to stay on company property, follow their rules. Of course, a company can terminate you for just about anything and they don't have to state the real reason... By the way, breaks are not covered under any federal wage laws. Look it up, there is nothing there! Breaks are company "perks" extended to employees. Common misception is breaks are a right. Wrong! Having been on both sides, let me just say employees are being to paid to do whatever the employer wishes, short of illegal or immoral. The employee does have the "right" not to work there if he does not agree with what the company decides to make as a rule... I believe it is rude to carry on a conversation in another language when someone else is in ear shot. But then that just my opinion...

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English only.......

by tek In reply to Business is business!

I'm a foreigner and I live by the rule that if you are in a different country you learn the language and you speak the language. I feel that I am rude to my co-workers if I run around speaking german, spanish or sweedish in my office(Yes I do speak those languages). Besides it keeps me from coming up on "weired" situations among my colleagues when they have no clue what I talk about. I got 2 kids one born in germany and one here in the US and none of them speak my native language. They live here, they speak english. If they want to learn another language they will have to aask me to teach them....

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Texas Labor Laws

by jbaker In reply to Business is business!

Texas labor laws are slightly different than elsewhere in the country. One thing that Texas says is that when a company defines a labor policy, it must stick to that policy, no matter what it is. So, if a company wanted to make its employees work 20 hours with one fifteen minute bathroom break, and no lunch, then as long as they observe that policy throughout the company it is okay. On the otherhand, if that was the policy, the company would have no employees, so it balances out. Companies define what is basically a balance between them and the employees to establish an acceptable workplace.

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Wow ! Here goes a Live Slavedriver !

by Peon In reply to Business is business!

How is it living in the 18th century ? You sure miss those boat rides to Africa and back, don't you ?

I appreciate that I live in a civilized state, not the US or wherever you are !

HERE in Germany breaks are part of my work contract with a US outfit. Business language is English and yes, when someone makes derogatory remarks about me talking German to coworkers, I just tell them to learn German if they want to understand me. If I deal with them directly, I'll speak English.

And no, the company DOES NOT OWN me. I will not jump off the bridge, just because a moron manager tells me so. ;-(((

If I ever should encounter SUCH an employer as you describe it, I'll tell them what I think in plain English and leave.

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Na, so!

by ChipMicro In reply to Wow ! Here goes a Live Sl ...

Ein Paar gute Punkte, aber diese Ideen wegen 'Zivilisierung' und wie es in den US geht (bzw. nicht geht) sind ganz und gar vom Pferd!

Wenn Sie in Deutschland den T?rken richtig behandeln, und denen aus Jugoslawien, und nicht mehr Gift gegen alle Amis ins gesamt plaudern, DANN d?rfen Sie von Zivilisierung jammern!

Passen Sie mal auf - egal ob es unglaublich ist, ohne uns gibt es keine EU mehr. Und eben so f?r uns mit euch! Wir sind Geschwister-Staaten - daher wurde den EU erst als Wirtschafts-verbund geschaffen, um mit den US-Dollar egal gemessen zu sein.

Der Mensch soll mindestens lebenslang das Beste von anderen erwarten. Falls jemand verarschung macht is das von denen gemacht, nicht ihren Land oder Kamaraden! Wir sind im Form ?nhlich, vielleicht eines Tages werden wir auch in gleichrechtigkeit so sein!

I am the sum of my parts, not the lowest common denominator of where I live. True civilization cannot exist where lines on a piece of paper are allowed to confer significant quality differences, either positive or negative. In other words, don't hate me because of where I was born, or the hard work I do, and most definitely don't judge me when you don't know me.

Sweeping generalizations have caused mass pain and suffering throughout global history, gell?

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Rude to talk in another language?

by rschroots In reply to Business is business!

Then it is also rude to talk in a low voice. As this is obviously with the intent that others don't understand what you are saying.

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Scandanavian Star

by Dr Dij In reply to Its a private company

There was a show on NGC about a north sea ferry catching fire and killing 100's of people.

Problem is much of the staff was from third world countries (Nigeria for example) and spoke little or no english or scandanavian languages.

I think for some jobs there should be a requirement that they are ABLE to speak the prevailing languages.

Also the freighter that crashed into the dock in the Gulf of Mexico (new orleans?) had same communications problems. The pilot who boarded had problems communicating with captain and crew.

While I don't think they should be able to restrict what they speak to each other, I think it is reasonable to test for proficiency in certain languages.

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