'English-only' Rules in the Workplace

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tennessee became the first state to pass a law which allows businesses to require their employees to speak English at work. Tennessee is leading a trend seen by a number of cities throughout the country, which are implementing laws that allow English-only rules in one form or another.

Brandon Gee, a staff writer for the Nashville Business Journal, joins us to explain what these types of laws could mean for businesses, many of which are against such rules.   

We’re also joined by Arnedo Valera, an attorney, who is representing three Filipino nurses who were fired last month for speaking Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, during their lunch break at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore.

We asked the hospital to comment on this story; the Bon Secours lawyer provided the following statement:

Bon Secours Baltimore Health System is aware that four former employees have filed Charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, Bon Secours has not received copies of the Charges from the Commission and, therefore, is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations.

Bon Secours' mission is to bring compassion to health care and it strives to treat both patients and employees with respect and dignity. Its first priority is the safety and welfare of its patients. Since English is the principal language of our patients and employees, Bon Secours' English language policy, like that of so many other health care providers, is in place to ensure clear, effective communications among caregivers while performing their job responsibilities, in order to protect patients and minimize safety risks. If a patient is not comfortable communicating in English, it is Bon Secours policy to provide translation services to the extent possible.


Brandon Gee and Arnedo Valera

Produced by:

Karin Kamp and Kristen Meinzer

Comments [7]

Daniel Foley

These employees were treated unfairly, the employer has no right to tell them what language to speak and not speak on the job as long as when dealing with customers (or in this case patients) they speak proper English.

Like I said before I find it unfair that they were fired, however I do believe that if you are an immigrant who speaks a language other than English, you should learn to speak English. It sounds childish however it is a common courtesy, and only fair. If someone moved from America to a foreign and still only spoke English it would be seen as almost disrespectful to their culture (I know from experience). Given my position i am obviously understanding with people immigrating to this country and hold nothing against it however you should learn our culture, laws, customs, and learn the primary language. Hold truly and proudly to your home and culture, like i have and many people have, but learn to live in this country as a properly functioning citizen.

Feb. 22 2011 10:00 PM
DLF from East Coast

give it here...I'll investigate that in a minute!

Jul. 21 2010 04:15 PM
RT from New York

Has anyone mentioned the ironic fact that the hospital's name, Bon Secours, is not English?

Thus, one could be fired for using the hospital name rather than translating it into English.

Perhaps the name reflected the ethnicity of the clientelle, the neighborhood or the founder/financer at one time. If we didn't try to stamp out immigrant languages, we might be more competitive internationally.

Jul. 21 2010 11:34 AM
Gail from Tennessee

I can see this going even further. New Englanders can't understand Southerners or Westerners because of their accents, so before long everyone will have to speak with a New England accent to work in New England (that's not including all the French speakers in New England who work in Canada and speak English and French)., etc. It is plainly divisive.

Jul. 21 2010 11:23 AM
MJBird from stillwater ok 74075

What about the Dcctors who speak latin. Isn't that foriegn language??????

Jul. 21 2010 10:57 AM
Sameer from Bloomfiel.

We really cannot ignore the fact that people from various backgrounds are present in this country. Immigration reform is needed which is the real issue, and this is not the way to go about it.

Jul. 21 2010 09:25 AM

I do not understand why any employee who is on a break cannot communicate with others in their native language. If they are not working at that time what is the problem?

Americans should consider that are many people who speak more than one language. I do not have a problem with a requirement for an individual to be proficient in the use of English in the workplace, but people have the right to use their native languages here. That is a form of freedom of speech. At least it is a freedom by my interpretation of that right.

The irony in this situation is the fact that there are native born Americans who are not literate enough to use English in the workplace.

Jul. 21 2010 09:03 AM

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