PDA

View Full Version : Refuse to Speak English? No Unemployment Benefits.



ninjamom6
01-19-2008, 10:20 PM
State Senator Ken Cuccinelli has proposed an amendment to Virginia's statute regarding paying unemployment benefits - SB 339 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?081+ful+SB339).

Virginia law already says that if an employee is fired for "misconduct" then he/she is not elibible for unemployment benefits. Also, Virginia is a right-to-work state, where employers can fire employees at will. Cuccinelli's bill merely tries to stipulate that if an employee is fired because they are unable or unwilling to speak English in opposition to the employer's stated policy, it would be considered misconduct, and the employee would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Here is a link to an interview with Sen. Cuccinelli: Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/video2/launchPage.html?011808/011808_ampulse_firing&Lost%20in%20Translation&America%27s%20Pulse&Should%20employers%20be%20allowed%20to%20fire%20wo rkers%20that%20can%27t%20speak%20English%3F&Politics&-1&Lost%20in%20Translation&Video%20Launch%20Page&News&http%3A//media2.foxnews.com/thumbnails/011808_011808_ampulse_firing_320x240.jpg)

What do you think of this proposed legislation?

reils49
01-19-2008, 10:41 PM
Sounds like a good idea to me. We need a law like that in California.

DAL
01-19-2008, 10:41 PM
Virginia law already says that if an employee is fired for "misconduct" then he/she is not elibible for unemployment benefits. Also, Virginia is a right-to-work state, where employers can fire employees at will. Cuccinelli's bill merely tries to stipulate that if an employee is fired because they are unable or unwilling to speak English in opposition to the employer's stated policy, it would be considered misconduct, and the employee would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If an employer's policy is that the employee must speak English, and the employee cannot speak English, he should not have been hired in the first place.

If people who cannot speak English are ineligible for unemployment compensation, then they should not have to pay unemployment tax.

ninjamom6
01-19-2008, 10:52 PM
I'm going to address your points in reverse order.


If people who cannot speak English are ineligible for unemployment compensation, then they should not have to pay unemployment tax.

Employees don't pay unemployment tax in Virginia; that expense is paid solely by employers. And if a terminated employee files a claim for unemployment benefits, the employer's unemployment insurance rates go up.


If an employer's policy is that the employee must speak English, and the employee cannot speak English, he should not have been hired in the first place.

By that train of thought, many people who do not have good English speaking skills would never be hired and never be given a chance to work. In the video, Cuccinelli talks about a small business owner who agreed to hire an immigrant, who promised to improve his English skills over the first year of his employment. The employee did not fulfill his end of the bargain, and was fired. The employee then filed for unemployment, which caused the employer's rate to go up.

Was this fair to the employer who willingly took a chance on the immigrant?

DAL
01-19-2008, 11:19 PM
That's nice, but the amendment to the statute says nothing like the "example" you give. The new language is:


(5) An employee's inability or refusal to speak English at the workplace, in violation of a known policy of the employer that requires employees to speak only English at the workplace. The Commission may consider evidence of mitigating circumstances in determining whether misconduct occurred.

If you believe this is appropriate, then I presume you believe that if you travel to Mexico, people should speak only Spanish to you, and if you go to China people should speak only Chinese to you, etc?

ninjamom6
01-20-2008, 01:51 AM
That's nice, but the amendment to the statute says nothing like the "example" you give. The new language is:


(5) An employee's inability or refusal to speak English at the workplace, in violation of a known policy of the employer that requires employees to speak only English at the workplace. The Commission may consider evidence of mitigating circumstances in determining whether misconduct occurred.

Yes, that is exactly what it is saying. The amendment adds to the criteria of "misconduct" when an employee violates company policy by not being able to speak English. If an employer makes it a condition of employment that everyone must speak English, and a new hire takes the job knowing that they have a certain time period to accomplish that standard, and they fail to meet the standard within the alloted time frame, it is considered misconduct. It protects the business owner from having his rates jacked up just because he was willing to give a non-English speaker a chance at employment.



If you believe this is appropriate, then I presume you believe that if you travel to Mexico, people should speak only Spanish to you, and if you go to China people should speak only Chinese to you, etc?

Yes. I am not so arrogant as to think that everyone in the world should speak English. When I have visited other countries I expected to be spoken to in the language of that country, and was extremely grateful to find people who were willing and able to speak English to me.

JTShooter
01-20-2008, 02:47 AM
If you believe this is appropriate, then I presume you believe that if you travel to Mexico, people should speak only Spanish to you, and if you go to China people should speak only Chinese to you, etc?

What? If someone in another country speaks english, it's considered a second language. Same thing applies here. If you speak Spanish, learn English too. That way you can communicate with everyone and still keep your native language.

Comparing someone who visits a country to someone who lives and works in a country are two different things IMO.

insomniac
01-20-2008, 05:19 AM
If you believe this is appropriate, then I presume you believe that if you travel to Mexico, people should speak only Spanish to you, and if you go to China people should speak only Chinese to you, etc?
Why would I expect them to speak anything but their native language to me? If they can speak English and wish to converse with me in English then great, but I don't feel as though they have to. I don't think anyone in Mexico or China (or any country) has any obligation to learn English to appease me. If I'm visiting or living in their country it should be MY obligation to learn THEIR language.

I'm curious, though - how have you derived this question from the proposed legislation? It doesn't say anything about someone only being allowed to speak English in The United States. It merely says that refusing to speak English per company policy can be considered misconduct. It doesn't mandate that companies MUST have a policy regarding what language their employees are required to speak.

If you really want to play the other side of the coin, a better question would be - would you be opposed to someone being fired from the local taqueria down the street from you and denied unemployment because they refused to learn or speak spanish for their, mainly hispanic, customers?

Kpdpipes
01-20-2008, 10:37 AM
MY Maternal Grandfather spoke only German when he came here as a young man, HE learned English, he had his german accent until the day he died but he was fluent before my Father was Born. My Grandmother on that side came from An area in ireland where English was a second Language and people mostly spoke Irish Gaelic amongst themselves..SHE learned english fluently when she came here. My Maternal Grandparents came here from Sctoland so they already spoke English...sort of. ALWAYS in the past Immigrants were expected to learn the language of the Land. If I was to Emigrate to Mexico (NOT travel as a tourist, but move there to live) Or Guatemala, Or Poland, or Russia, or Turkey (ect. Ect. ect.) Would i be catered to, or would i expect to learn the language that is spoken there in order to function???

Ex Army MP
01-20-2008, 10:50 AM
(5) An employee's inability or refusal to speak English at the workplace, in violation of a known policy of the employer that requires employees to speak only English at the workplace. The Commission may consider evidence of mitigating circumstances in determining whether misconduct occurred.



Here is my problem with this type of law. The language seems to go beyond just the ability to speak English, which as you questioned why someone would be hired in the first place, but adds the refusal to speak English in violation of an English only policy.

I have no problem with an English only policy that has a rational basis and specifies where and when a person must speak English. For example, the AC casinos have this type of policy for workers on the casino floor to prevent dealers and customers from cheating. However, I disagree with a blanket English only while at work policy. Would this apply to speaking with a co-worker of the same background while in the employee break room? If so, and not rationally related to any stated objective, it's hard for me to believe that the policy is motivated by anything other than pure bigotry.

ninjamom6
01-20-2008, 02:25 PM
I have no problem with an English only policy that has a rational basis and specifies where and when a person must speak English. For example, the AC casinos have this type of policy for workers on the casino floor to prevent dealers and customers from cheating. However, I disagree with a blanket English only while at work policy. Would this apply to speaking with a co-worker of the same background while in the employee break room? If so, and not rationally related to any stated objective, it's hard for me to believe that the policy is motivated by anything other than pure bigotry.

I think this concern is addressed in the last line of item 5: "The Commission may consider evidence of mitigating circumstances in determining whether misconduct occurred."

If an employer has a legitimate reason to prohibit the speaking of other languages in the break room, or when employees aren't dealing with customers, I would think that would be explained at the time of hire. If company policies are explained up front, the employee has no excuse not to follow them.

On the other hand, if the Commission determines that a company's policy is unfair or abusive in any way, it can find in favor of the terminated employee and grant unemployment benefits. If your employees speak Spanish (or any other language) I don't see why you would not allow them to speak their native language on their break time.

Personally, I was always taught it was bad manners to speak in a language other than the common one if you were in a group (assuming there is a common language among the group).

Ex Army MP
01-20-2008, 05:34 PM
I think this concern is addressed in the last line of item 5: "The Commission may consider evidence of mitigating circumstances in determining whether misconduct occurred."

If an employer has a legitimate reason to prohibit the speaking of other languages in the break room, or when employees aren't dealing with customers, I would think that would be explained at the time of hire. If company policies are explained up front, the employee has no excuse not to follow them.



The tough issue here, even with employees "at will" is that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on national origin. Now I realize that the rule applies to everyone but the impact would be disproportional to the Hispanic employees. Generally, rules that are imposed " because I said so" will fly when employees are "at will" except the ones that violate other laws, particularly ones that discriminate against a protected class.

I haven't read case law on English Only workplace rules in quite a while and perhaps there isn't much on point with my scenario. But I believe that a Court could easily strike down these policies if they are made simply for no reason other than employer prerogative.

DAL
01-20-2008, 06:40 PM
It seems to me that most of you are missing that the statute says "to speak only English," not just "to speak English." The word "only" is what is wrong with this statute, and why the "example" of an employee who refuses to speak English has nothing to do with the amendment.

Under this law, an employee who speaks English perfectly well but also speaks Spanish at the office could be fired with complete impunity. I don't think that is right. Even if he might fight for the unemployment benefits, how many employees have the resources to do that? And would the legal fees be worth the cost. The law is so broad that the employer could fire the person even if speaking a foreign language improved his job performance -- for example by speaking to a customer whose English was limited.

Sure, employers should be able to fire employees who can't or won't speak English when doing so is essential, but this goes too far. This law is just an effort to make life harder for people who don't speak English well or have a limited vocabulary. It encourages employers to fire them whenever convenient. Considering that my ancestors variously spoke German, Italian and Spanish when they came to this country, and their English was limited, I find this proposed law very insulting.

The parallel is that if you went to a restaurant in Mexico and the waiter spoke to you in English because he recognized you as an American, it would be appropriate to fire him.

Better watch out on using Spanish, French and Yiddish words that have not yet made it into the English language.

Sgt_H
01-20-2008, 08:41 PM
It seems to me that most of you are missing that the statute says "to speak only English," not just "to speak English." The word "only" is what is wrong with this statute...

+1 on this part


This law is just an effort to make life harder for people who don't speak English well or have a limited vocabulary.

I tend to disagree with this part. It may be the case, but I think it's a little much to ascribe such negative motivations.


The parallel is that if you went to a restaurant in Mexico and the waiter spoke to you in English because he recognized you as an American, it would be appropriate to fire him.

Which would be stupid on the resturant's part, but I think it should be legal for employers to be stupid. Nothing like losing business to make employers smarten up.

DAL
01-20-2008, 09:24 PM
Which would be stupid on the resturant's part, but I think it should be legal for employers to be stupid. Nothing like losing business to make employers smarten up.

It already is legal to fire someone for this reason; employment is at will in Virginia. And, of course, it would be foolish for an employer to do this. However, the law provides a pretext to fire someone and avoid paying him unemployment insurance. I think the statute is most likely be used for that purpose, the result of which will be to punish people who speak English but whose primary language is something else, most likely Spanish, although it could be any language, such a Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese.

It would be most interesting if the law were turned around to allow employers to avoid paying unemployment compensation to workers who were told to speak Spanish only and were caught speaking English. There are some cities in the Southwest where government business is conducted in Spanish rather than English.

Sgt_H
01-20-2008, 09:26 PM
There are some cities in the Southwest where government business is conducted in Spanish rather than English.

Which is an abomination.

DAL
01-20-2008, 10:11 PM
In California and most of the Southwest, land grants were originally in Spanish, because these states were part of Mexico. Parts of Arizona and New Mexico were purchased from Spain. Louisiana was purchased from France; Louisiana still recognizes French. In Hawaii, both English and Hawaiian are official languages.

Throughout the world there are countries or areas of countries where the predominant language differs from the official language.