In this instance, probably not. According to the EEOC, an English-only rule may be used if it is needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer’s business. Some situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only rule include:
- communications with customers, coworkers or supervisors who speak only English;
- emergency situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; and
- cooperative work assignments in which a common language is needed to promote efficiency.
An employer’s use of an English-only rule should relate to specific circumstances in the workplace. In this instance, Judith wants to implement an English-only policy because she didn’t understand what two employees were saying to each other—not because the employees’ use of French was disrupting or preventing safe or efficient business operations.
Source: EEOC Guidance: “Questions and Answers for Small Employers about National Origin Discrimination,” reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5070.