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The "Protecting English in the Workplace Act of 2007"

 
 
Foxfyre
 
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 11:40 am
According to Senator Lamar Alexander, in 2007 the EEOC has filed 200 lawsuits against businesses who require their employees to speak English on the job.

For myself, in my most recent past vocation, I found having employees in the workplace who could speak English and Spanish to be quite useful, and it saved me from having to hunt up and hire an interpreter more than once. As my own Spanish is quite limited and I speak no Chinese, however, I do find it frustrating trying to do business with Spanish speakers or Chinese speakers (or anybody else) who cannot speak English.

On December 12, Senator Alexander introduced a bill, "The Protecting English in the Workplace Act of 2007" that would prohibit the government from forbidding employers to REQUIRE English in the workplace while on the job but not on coffee breaks, etc. Please express why you do or why you do not support this bill. In other words, while working and dealing with their employer and/or customers or other coworkers, the employer can insist that they speak English. On their coffee break or lunch hour they can speak anything they like.


From Today's E-mail:
Quote:
. . . .Here is what Senator Lamar Alexander says about his bill in a press release.

"A federal agency says it's illegal for an employer to require employees to speak in English, which, in plain English, means that thousands of small businesses in American would have to hire a lawyer and be prepared to make their case to a federal agency that there is some special reason to justify speaking English on the job. I believe this is a gross distortion of the Civil Rights Act and a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be an American."

Lest anyone think this bill would force illegal aliens to speak English at all time, Alexander said this;

"This bill's not about affecting people's lunch hour or coffee break -- it's about protecting the rights of employers to ensure their employees can communicate with each other and their customers during the working hours. In America, requiring English in the workplace is not discrimination; it's common sense."

In other words, people can speak in Spanish, Swahili, or any other language they wish during their personal time (lunch, coffee-breaks etc.). Anyone who says otherwise is either misinformed or lying.

By the way, Alexander originally offered a similar bill as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill; and it was added to the CJS Appropriations Bill back in June by a vote of 15-14.

And (on a partisan vote) it was squashed!. . . .

. . .the EEOC filed 200 ACTIONS just this year against employers because they required employees to speak English. Given the fact that small business contributes the lion's share of jobs and economic growth in America, this behavior is suicidal.. . . .


More detail on this HERE
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Type: Discussion • Score: 0 • Views: 7,401 • Replies: 131
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:08 pm
The email Foxfyre posts equates speakers of a foreign language (i.e. Spanish) with illegal people. They are two separate issues and since companies can fire illegal people anyway one is not even relevant to the other.

In truth this bill is a political gimmick... part of the desperate attempt by Republicans to use their little "third world invasion" to distract voters from the fact they have no real issues to run on.

But I will play along and take the issue at face value....

This bill wants to give employers the ability to fire people... but it is unclear who they want to be able to fire.

Are these employees people with the ability to speak both English and Spanish who choose to speak Spanish to each other, or are these employees who are unable to speak English.

In the first case... I would hope that employers would have a better regard for their employees. In my workplace there are a couple of people I speak Spanish with... and there are several people who speak Greek with each other and others who speak Chinese. This works just fine.

In the second case... if workers (who have permission to work legally) are unable to speak English, it should be treated as any other disability. First it is in everyone's interest to provide support for these employees to learn English (and as a society we do a mediocre job at this at best).

If good English is not required for someone to do the job (and there are many jobs that don't require English) then there is no reason for the employer to fire them.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:12 pm
The case that brought this to a head and prompted the bill was the EEOC filing suit against the Salvation Army for firing two employees who could not speak English. The employees were hired with the understanding that they would learn English and were given one year to acquire sufficient English to at least communicate to some degree in English. When they could not speak more than a few words of English after one year they were fired.

I prefer not to bring into the discussion all the red herrings Ebrown suggests but focus on the specific issue of whether an employer should have the legal right to require employees to speak English on the job.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:12 pm
Oh... for the poll I voted "Other". It should be quietly ignored by most Americans until it fades away without much notice-- other than Lamar who will use it to boost his anti-illegal-person credentials (even though it has nothing to do with illegal people) and by the Hispanic community who will see more evidence of prejudice toward Spanish speakers.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:17 pm
I need more information so I'm reading up now. I'll be back to answer the poll in a few.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:26 pm
Quote:

I prefer not to bring into the discussion all the red herrings Ebrown suggests but focus on the specific issue of whether an employer should have the legal right to require employees to speak English on the job.


This whole bill is a red herring. After reading the specific lawsuit... these were two "clothes sorters" who got into a spat with their supervisor. Of course the real danger of this bill is the other cases where these rules are used to weed out specific employees.

If this bill ever passed (and it won't due to strong opposition in the Congress including from Hispanic Republicans) it would make one more pretext for discrimination that could be used even when English ability has nothing to do with the job in question.

This is a very divisive bill that solves nothing. It is already strongly opposed by Hispanic Americans including Republicans in Congress..

Its only purpose is political gimmick...
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:32 pm
"On December 12, Senator Alexander introduced a bill, "The Protecting English in the Workplace Act of 2007" that would prohibit the government from forbidding employers to REQUIRE English in the workplace while on the job but not on coffee breaks, etc. Please express why you do or why you do not support this bill. In other words, while working and dealing with their employer and/or customers or other coworkers, the employer can insist that they speak English. On their coffee break or lunch hour they can speak anything they like. "

Weird wording, I must say. If the employee is going to be communicating with others in an English-speaking environment, then obviously speaking English to a certain level is going to be required. What they speak on their coffee breaks is nobody's business, in my opinion.

Re the Sally Ann: If speaking English (to a certain level) was specified as an employment condition, and the employees didn't meet that condition, then yes, they are within their rights to fire them.


I'm not sure if this is what you wanted.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 12:53 pm
I suppose, if we got such here (in Germany or any other non English-speaking EU-country) a couple of firms would loose their complete upper management.

If e.g. German knowledge for a job is required, it's noted - and you wouldn't get it if you couldn't speak German.

But since we can move and work free in any EU-country, there are certainly millions employed over the continent who only have little knowledge of the country's language and thus certainly prefer to speak in their native tongue.

Why bother?
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 01:14 pm
I'm thinking this is much todo about nothing. First, I know of no law that prohibits employers from requiring English communication skills for a job. In my job, for instance, we would not hire someone who was not a fluent English speaker, and I don't think it's a great burden for my company to demonstrate why that is if we had to. Second, after doing some digging, the case that started all this seems to be misrepresented. (See PDF complaint here http://util.wickedlocal.com/s/pdf/salvationarmy.pdf ) The two who were fired did not speak English when they were hired and they worked there for 5 years (not 1) before they were fired. I'm at a loss to see how they were able to do their jobs (sort clothes) satisfactorily for 4 years without speaking English, but suddenly that last year they couldn't do it anymore.

So my vote is to let it die as I think it's pointless and addresses a non-issue.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 01:20 pm
Yeah, I don't know what happened when I posted, but my last response was a query about why this legislation was needed. You can do this on a company basis, as with other things, like dress codes, so why introduce a law?
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 01:26 pm
The law in question is the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuits in question are based on provisions that are designed to prevent employers from creating arbitrary rules (i.e. not related to the job) to discriminate against certain types of employees.

The Civil Rights act has been law for the past 43 years.

Lamar Alexander is trying to weaken the Civil Rights Act so that some people (in this case Spanish speakers) can be fired for reasons that are completely unrelated to their ability to do the job.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 01:37 pm
Mame wrote:
Yeah, I don't know what happened when I posted, but my last response was a query about why this legislation was needed. You can do this on a company basis, as with other things, like dress codes, so why introduce a law?


The 'law' was introduced because some 200 such suits this year have been filed by the EEOC against small businesses when they have attempted to institute English mandatory policies in their work forces. It isn't that much different from a business changing their policy about much of anything. I have had a couple of jobs for some time in which the company policy changed to require specific certification for employees doing the work. As I didn't have the certification I was given a reasonable time to qualify for it and get it, which I did. Had I not, I would have fully expected to be terminated for not meeting the requirements of the job even though I had been doing that job for some time.

I don't see how institution of a dress code or mandatory English policy would be any different, especially if the employees were given a reasonable time to comply. (One source I read said the Salvation army gave those two employees two years to learn sufficient English; others say one year; but either way that does not seem unreasonable.)

The number of non-English speakers in our area has seemed to increase tenfold in the last decade or so, and where it was not much of a problem before, it has actually become a problem. I think before employers didn't have much of a problem with non-English speakers as just about everybody did speak adequate English, but lately it has become more of a problem.

The Salvation Army case is but one among the 200 businesses cited by Alexander and some other groups that are paying attention to this.

Note that the law does not require employers to institute mandatory English policies, but it does allow them the right to do so without retaliation from the EEOC or anybody else and without having to go through an intensive legal process to get it done.
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 01:50 pm
I'm curious where the number of 200 cases against small businesses comes from. Or the "thousands of small businesses" that were quoted in the email.

From news reports about this story, it seems that the EEOC is saying that English-only lawsuits are brought only rarely, and that the agency averages just five lawsuits a year for all language-related discrimination issues. Apparently, English-only complaints accounted for less than 0.2 percent of all those filed with the agency last year.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:00 pm
old europe wrote:
I'm curious where the number of 200 cases against small businesses comes from. Or the "thousands of small businesses" that were quoted in the email.

From news reports about this story, it seems that the EEOC is saying that English-only lawsuits are brought only rarely, and that the agency averages just five lawsuits a year for all language-related discrimination issues. Apparently, English-only complaints accounted for less than 0.2 percent of all those filed with the agency last year.


The 'thousands of small businesses' will be at risk if the EEOC is allowed to continue with what some view as excessive tyranny against small business. This trend has just started, and some believe it is far better to nip such things in the bud before it becomes a serious problem for many.

So setting aside numbers and other red herrings associated with the issue, what do you think? Should an employer be allowed to insist that his employees be required to speak or be able to speak German or English or any other language common to an area? Why or why not?
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:06 pm
Yes, employers should be and are allowed to institute such policies.

I think it's difficult to feel strongly that the EEOC has run amok judging by this one case, where, according to the complaint, the policy in question existed at the time the employees were hired and throughout the 5 years they worked there, but the company decided to begin enforcing it one year before the two were fired. I would think that if the Salvation Army can show that English was suddenly needed for sorting clothes they will be fine.
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:07 pm
I think that a business should have the right to expect its employees to speak English. As far as I'm aware, that's the case.

I just think that it shouldn't have the right to prevent workers from speaking languages other than English.
0 Replies
 
Foxfyre
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:16 pm
old europe wrote:
I think that a business should have the right to expect its employees to speak English. As far as I'm aware, that's the case.

I just think that it shouldn't have the right to prevent workers from speaking languages other than English.


Nobody is suggesting they not speak other languages when they aren't doing their jobs. But geez, when I drive up to Micky D's and order a Big Mac through the speaker, I really appreciate having somebody on the other end who can understand what I'm ordering and repeat it back to me or ask questions or tell me how much money to have ready, all in English.

And I would think it would make for a much more efficient work place, cut down on misunderstandings and misperceptions if everybody is speaking the same language instead of this person or that person or this group or that group being shut out of a conversation by use of a language they can't understand.
0 Replies
 
old europe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:18 pm
I agree. And, as said before, businesses do have the right to expect their employees to speak English when it is necessary for the job.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:24 pm
I agree here, and certainly a good employer (here: McD) would only engage personal who are able to deal with their customers - language and/or skill wise.

But I doubt that the burger tastes worse when the griller handed at over to another employee with some Ukrainian words.
0 Replies
 
Jim
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Dec, 2007 02:28 pm
I've never owned a business and I've never hired anyone. I do agree with Foxfyre that having multi-lingual employees could be good for the business, and I can think of many cases where a business would want to pay multi-lingual employees a higher salary or wage to hire and retain them.

In my line of work (upstream crude oil and gas production) it can be hard enough to safely run the facilities even when everyone speaks the same language. I cannot begin to imagine the problems involved if all of the employees did not share a common language.

I suppose it is possible there are some businesses where it wouldn't matter if all the employees did not share a common language. Maybe some other posters could suggest a few.
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