W2 Issues/Concerns

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Check out our weekly blog posts and see the latest news and discussions happening in the HR world of business.

Clothing Retailer Sued for Banning Workers from Speaking Spanish at Work

Clothing retailer Forever 21 has found itself in legal hot water after it banned three workers in one of its San Francisco outposts from speaking Spanish while at work. Further, when the employees pushed back against the ban, the clothing chain is said to have threatened to discipline or terminate them and subjected them to “extreme scrutiny.”

The claim, which was filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing on behalf of the three workers, states that the company’s HR department “was dismissive and indifferent” to the workers’ concerns and “fail[ed] or refus[ed] to take corrective action.”

For its part, Forever 21 has denied having an English-only policy in its stores. However, it should be noted that even if they did, they might not actually be breaking the law. Under California law, employers are authorized to limit or prohibit the use of any language on the job, provided the restriction is justified by “business necessity.” In order to uphold a ban, the employer must be able to prove that its language policy fulfills “an overriding legitimate business purpose,” such as being “necessary to the safe and efficient operation of the business.” Further, the law states that employers must inform workers when the restrictions are in place and the consequences they may face for non-compliance.

Commenting on the proceedings, John Zaimes, an attorney with Mayer Brown in Los Angeles, notes that California law “leaves a lot of room for argument about whether a particular restriction is necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the business.” For example, in workplaces where safety and communication are critical, such as construction sites or emergency rooms – employers could make a compelling argument about the necessity of having employees communicate in a single language. However, for other types of businesses, there is certainly a gray area.

California is not the only state that has implemented English-only policies in the workplace. Tennessee and Illinois both have policies with varying restrictions and several others have considered or are considering similar rules. If you are in a state that can ban non-English speaking in the workplace, the Department of Labor recommends the following best practices:

Evaluate: In evaluating whether to adopt an English-only rule, an employer should weigh the business justifications for the rule against any possible discriminatory effects.

Consider Alternatives: Before adopting an English-only rule, the employer should consider whether there are any alternatives that would be equally effective in promoting safety or efficiency.

Consult with EEO Manager: To ensure that the employer is proceeding properly, it is best to consult with the EEO Manager or the Civil Rights Center before implementing an English-only rule.

Further, SHRM notes that for companies instituting a language policy, they should be sure that the terms are put in writing, reviewed with managers and supervisors, and included as part of both onboarding and standard periodic training. SHRM also suggests that these businesses should also consider “finding a practical middle ground, such as requiring retail employees to speak English on the sales floor unless customers initiate conversation in another language or ask for help from someone who speaks their native language.” Zaimes also advises HR professionals to “consider being a little bit of a devil’s advocate” if their employer has adopted a broad language policy by pointing out that it can make the business vulnerable to allegations of discrimination and retaliation, as is the case with Forever 21.

For more information on the Department of Labor’s position on English-only policies, click here.

[pro_ad_display_adzone id="4020"]

Featured BLOGS

  • Should you opt for a PEO or a payroll company?

    Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali, Boston Red Sox versus New York Yankees. Green Bay Packers versus Chicago Bears. PEO versus payroll companies. Well, turns out one of these things are not like the other and not just because they don’t involve sports teams and packed stadiums, but rather because there really isn’t any rivalry, per se, between a PEO company and a payroll company. You see, while they both help you offload some of your HR responsibilities, they function in entirely different ways. A payroll company really dials in and takes over just one facet of the human resources world.

  • HR how-to: Do you have a gift giving policy?

    While you’re still nursing your turkey hangover, we’ve been busy thinking about the holiday season ahead and while it’s sure to be full of festive cheer, it’s also a season ripe for some rather large HR pitfalls. Take the good ol’ holiday gift. Whether it’s a secret Santa, a white elephant, a Yankee Swap, or any other name for a holiday exchange, it is one holiday tradition that definitely could be helped by the addition of a gift-giving policy. What are the rules? (of the gift giving, not the game, obviously!) Make it voluntary: The holiday period can be tough


FSA | Commuter New Employee Abel Portal Time Clock