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Is a language requirement for a job a type of discrimination?

| Dec 17, 2018 | Workplace Discrimination |

As you look for a job, you may come across advertisements saying that only people who speak a certain language can apply. Is that racial discrimination because it gives preference to people from a certain country?

It is not, as long as the basis for the advertisement is not the person’s country of origin itself, and as long as the language is a real requirement for the job.

For instance, perhaps the employer needs someone who can speak French. They deal with a lot of clients who only speak French, so it saves time and money not to have to use a translator. To that end, some aspects of the job may even be impossible if the person doesn’t speak the language.

If the advertisement for the job says that speaking French is a requirement, that’s fine, as long as it’s open to anyone who has learned the language. If it says that the person has to be French, however, that could be discrimination based on race and/or national origin. It’s essentially a way for employers to handpick employees of a specific nationality at the exclusion of others.

The problem here is that some companies attempt to disguise discrimination. In the same way that a company may try to hide age discrimination by asking for “recent graduates” to apply, the company could try to hide racial discrimination with language stipulations.

If this happens, it is crucial for employees to know what legal rights they have and what steps they can take to protect themselves. Remember, discrimination is illegal in the workplace, and it cannot be permitted to impact hiring, firing, handing out promotions and other things of this nature.

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