“English Only” Requirements in a Job Application Can be Illegal

“English Only” Requirements in a Job Application Can be Illegal

Discrimination in the workplace is a subject that business owners are all too familiar with, however one of the biggest mistakes they could be making is language discrimination. Language discrimination is a type of national origin discrimination and certain requirements in the workplace can be illegal.

Hiring someone on the basis of the language they do or don’t speak and judging the fluid nature of their speech can be illegal if the requirements are not in direct relation to their job requirements.

Hiring someone to speak English is acceptable if it is required in their job position, however requiring them to speak English only in the workplace must be heavily supported as to why you require only English.

Here are some instances where business owners could require English:

When fellow co-workers, supervisors or customers need to communicate who only speak English, a business owner can require the employee to speak English when communicating with these types of people, however not 100% of the time in the position.


When in an emergency situation. When there is an emergency or in a dangerous part of the workplace, a business owner can require employees to speak English, to promote safety.


During a review. When an employee is being audited or reviewed, it is acceptable to ask them to speak English while in the workplace, to promote efficiency.

Accents are another area of concern for some employers however, unless they seriously prohibit a job from being done, there is nothing a business owner can do. A heavy accent might be hard for customers to understand in the event of a customer service representative, however asking someone to repeat themselves again in a work situation, is not seen as the same inconvenience.

For further information and clarification on this topic and other discriminatory matters, please reference US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1324 at


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