As this blog mentioned in June, the state of California has enacted new regulations to strengthen further its public policy commitment to stamping out illegal discrimination, both in housing and in workplaces. The regulations that took effect this past July 1 dealt with one particular form of discrimination: that based on national origin. One of the key aspects of these new regulations expanding the definition of what constitutes national origin discrimination dealt with speech and language. The new rules did not stop there; they went further and provide California workers various avenues for proving that national origin discrimination occurred in their workplace. If you think you’ve been the victim of national origin discrimination on your job, you should take decisive action and reach out to a knowledgeable California discrimination attorney to learn more about the options in your case.
The regulations dealt a variety of hallmarks of national origin discrimination. One was employers’ creation of “English-only” workplace policies. While the policies did not discriminate against any group on their face, the impact was clear. Just like how facially neutral policies like literacy tests had the result of disenfranchising African-American voters in the “Jim Crow” South, these English-only policies had the impact of keeping people of certain national origins out of various workplaces.
Other employers took adverse employment actions against people based only their language accent or dialect. Similar to the “English-only” policies, these rules had the impact of disproportionately harming people of certain national origins for whom English is a second language. In both the cases of language rules and accent rules, the law does not say that the employer can never establish such rules. However, if the employer does create such a rule, the employer must demonstrate that the policy requirement is a business necessity. In 2011, the California courts ruled against Spanish-speaking employees in a case of a “no Spanish at work” rule. The employer only won its case, however, because it had proof that the bilingual employees were using their native tongue to demean other non-Spanish speaking employees and the policy was necessary to stamp out this misconduct.