There is no doubt that in order for business to be conducted efficiently, workers must be able to communicate with each other. To avoid issues, some employers may decide to implement a workplace policy that requires all workers to speak English at all times. However, implementing such a blanket policy on employee communication is likely unlawful.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulation on English-only rules, requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace is a “burdensome term and condition of employment.” Such a rule will violate the law, unless the employer can show that the rule is justified by business necessity. The EEOC does provide guidance on when an English-only policy may be considered justified by business necessity.
An English-only rule must be adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons only. For example, a policy prohibiting some, but not all, of the foreign languages spoken in a workplace, such as a no-Spanish rule, would be unlawful. The Department of Labor provides best practices for employers that are considering an English-only policy in the workplace.