English speaking requirement

My company hires unskilled labor to go out to customers' homes to do work. Our employees have to be able to communicate with the office staff and with the customers. Is it legal to hire only people who speak English?


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  • If you adopt such a rule, you are at risk of being challenged on the ground of citizenship status discrimination (under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986) and national origin discrimination (under Title VII). The EEOC opposes English-only rules. To overcome a charge of discrimination, you would have to prove that the requirement is job-related (which it sounds like it is) and consistent with business necessity (which may be tougher, since the job is unskilled labor and there may be ways to work around the language barrier if you really want to).
  • I think that this has a legal and a practical side. From a legal perspective I think that you can require employees to speak English if the job requires them to do so. From a practical perspective you might evaluate what this does for you in terms of recruiting and also determine what level of English that is workable. Here in Southern California we are used to dealing with people who have less than optimal English skills and we all survive.
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