Can We Advertise English Language Proficiency in a Help Wanted Ad?
Question: We are a small company currently with only two service techs (that includes my husband). We are looking for a new tech. Can we include in the ad that the individual must be able to speak English proficiently?
Answer: English-only rules are scrutinized closely by the EEOC to ensure such rules do not mask intent to discriminate based on national origin. Requiring employees to speak or write English is permissible if necessary to the safe and efficient operation of the business. The member company asking this question also mentioned wanting to avoid hiring illegal immigrants, and of course we all know it is unlawful to hire employees not authorized to work in this country. This is why employers are required to have applicants fill out the I-9 form and provide identification showing they may work in this country (all applicants, not just people who seem to be foreign-born). But it would not be permissible to screen out applicants on the basis of English fluency in order to determine eligibility to work in the United States.
Bottom line: An employer can require oral and written fluency in English for reasons as described above and must have all applicants complete the I-9 form.
This response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion, nor is this column a substitute for formal legal assistance. For help with particular legal needs, members are invited to consult with Brooke Duncan III of Adams and Reese LLP. Mr. Duncan can be reached at 504-585-0220 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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