Speaking another language Required for Job

Hi everyone! I would like some advice on when it is ok to require another language in order to be hired for a job. I am in a manufacturing facility, and it is helpful that our supervisors speak English and Spanish, as we have many Spanish speaking employees.

But, can I refuse to hire someone that doesn't speak Spanish? When is being bilingual a business necessity?


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  • I did some digging and found some articles on our blogs that might help you. While the information we have focuses more on "English-only" requirements, you can still see how some of the guidance might apply to you. You can click on the headline for any of the articles and it will take you to the full article.

    This is from the article[URL="http://www.hrhero.com/hl/articles/2007/06/01/bilingual-job-requirement-oked-by-court/"] "Bilingual job requirement OK'd by court"[/URL]

    [INDENT][INDENT][The company] was able to promulgate its language rule because it had a concrete and justifiable business need. Had its purported need for bilingual employees simply been a smoke screen for discriminatory decisionmaking, the result would have been different.[/INDENT][/INDENT]The article [URL="http://blogs.hrhero.com/diversity/2011/02/20/national-origin-discrimination-and-english-only-rules/"]"National origin discrimination and English-only rules"[/URL] includes this:

    [INDENT][INDENT]Therefore, the [EEOC] warns you to avoid applying uniform fluency requirements to a broad range of positions. The EEOC also admonishes employers not to require a greater degree of fluency than is necessary for the relevant position. [/INDENT][/INDENT]The article [URL="http://blogs.hrhero.com/diversity/2011/06/19/the-rule-is-english-only-capice/"]"The rule is 'English only'! Capice?"[/URL] includes this tip:

    [INDENT][INDENT]The Rule Should Fit a Business Need. Before instituting an English-only rule, you should identify a business justification for doing so and evaluate whether enforcing the rule will further the identified business need.
    [/INDENT]These articles are all at least a few years old, so you might want to do some looking around the eeoc.gov website to see if they have any newer guidance on bilingual or English-only requirements.

    It does sound like you have a business need for wanting supervisors to be able to speak Spanish--but you'll need to ensure that the requirement isn't discriminating against a protected class and that it is applied consistently in similar positions.
  • My sister lives in So Calif and was told on a number of occasions that she had to be bi-ingual to be able to work with other employees. This started at least 20 years ago when she was applying for low-skilled jobs.

    I believe if the employers has a large number of 'other than English' speaking employees of any language, they may require the supervisor to speak the 'other' language.
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