It’s frequently heard about racial discrimination when it came down to hiring employees, but it’s not very common to hear about companies and employers discriminating people on whether they can speak a certain language or not.
Although it’s not always brought to attention as a repeating problem, more people are victims of language discrimination than they think. I want to call to attention that this form of discrimination is happening and it’s happening in the most unnecessary situations. To put language discrimination into an easy to grasp concept, here’s a video to explain it in 5 easy facts.
Now, where does language discrimination occur? It usually arises in workplaces where employers require certain rules, such as being fluent in English or state that they must only speak English when at work. There was a tweet about discrimination in the work area where a man was banned from speaking Irish.
The article, seen here, discusses about how a man had left his job after being prohibited from speaking Irish because “this is an English-speaking business”. This may seem completely absurd to be restricted from speaking his own native language with other co-workers because it’s doing no harm to anyone other than offending the manager. There are many other instances where an individual was forbidden to speak another language during working hours in an “English-speaking business”. This article talks about 14 Spanish-speaking employees who filed a law suit against their employer, Gourmet Inc., a janitorial services company for Delta Airlines. They were also “constantly under threat and scrutiny for speaking Spanish” and one worker had received a warning because of this. There’s also an act, The Civil Rights Act, where “limiting which languages can be spoken in a workplace are allowed only if they are nondiscriminatory and if they serve a clear business or safety purpose”. As seen in the past two articles, the restriction of speaking Spanish was very unnecessary and does not follow the Civil Rights Act in any way. The employees being forbidden to speak their language to each other during working hours had no clear reason as to why it’s prohibited.
However, there are some reasons where certain fluency requirements may be legal and not considered as discriminatory: hiring employees that are fluent in Spanish because of their majority Spanish-speaking customers or when it comes to customer service employees who are required to know a specific language tending to the customers.
Even though it’s mostly seen that workers get discriminated against if they aren’t able to speak English, there are many circumstances where employers don’t hire people due to their inability to speak another language, such as Spanish. Recently, the diversity in the United States has been increasing, which has led to a more diverse workforce. Workers who are deemed as ‘bilingual’ are now more likely to be hired, and those who aren’t are stuck with not being able to fulfill that requirement. There was a situation where a fifth-generation Hispanic American citizen was denied a job due to his lack of ability to speak Spanish. It would’ve been expected that speaking English was enough for this position of warehouse worker, but even the smallest complication restricted him from getting the job. It’s stated in the article, “Today non-Spanish speaking Americans are denied employment in the United States with American companies because they do not speak a foreign language”. The idea of this does not seem to connect well because the incapability of a second language shouldn’t stop individuals from getting a career.
In today’s society, the lack of awareness for language discrimination can be surprising, but we must recognize those who are capable of succeeding but are held back due to unnecessary rules.
In my podcast below, I interviewed others on their opinions about discrimination against languages.