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California state employees bring suit against language policy

Employees that are members of a protected class are afforded certain legal rights. If they are being treated unfairly by their employer, or subject to a harassing policy, they are entitled to enforce these rights through administrative or legal action.

A group of employees at a facility run by the state of California recently brought a legal action alleging that the facility has imposed a policy preventing them from speaking Spanish during the workday, which they claim is discriminatory. The plaintiffs include six employees that claim that a violation of the policy will result in discipline or termination from their employment. The policy in question states that English is the official language of the state and should be spoken while working on the state's behalf. Their claim is that the policy is discriminatory and harassing toward them because there is no business necessity for the policy.

Employment discrimination is the harassment or unfair treatment of employees based on their membership in a protected class of people. These classes include nationality, religion, disability, age and gender, among others. The protections afforded to members of these classes by federal law apply at all stages of the employment process. Among the actions that are prohibited are for employers to harass, discipline or terminate employees based on their protected status. Any practices or policies that have a disparate impact on a protected class of employees are illegal for an employer to institute or enforce. Such policies include hiring processes or promotion criteria that screen out specific candidates.

The federal government has identified numerous classes of people that are entitled to legal protections from harassment in the workplace. The intent is to ensure fair treatment for all employees. If an employer has instituted a policy that prevents this, legal action may be necessary.

Source: Daily Pilot, "Fairview Developmental Center workers sue over no-Spanish policy," Jeremiah Dobruck, July 6, 2015

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