An interesting case of discrimination out of New York this month has some people here in Indiana questioning whether or not language discrimination should be taken into consideration in employment law cases the country over. This concern for employee rights comes after several NYPD officers receive bad marks on their records for speaking Spanish while on the job. According to the police department, this goes against their English-only policy–a controversial rule that could be ruled as unlawful in a court of law.
According to reports, the reprimands came just some time after a number of officers filed unrelated discrimination suits. Some are now saying that the controversial English-only rule was in retaliation to the lawsuits, which, if found to be true, goes against federal law as well.
The situation certainly raises a considerable amount of questions, not only in the state of New York but in other states across the nation. According to the police commissioner, the policy was put into place per federal law, which allegedly requires English in the workplace. Some have already argued that this could constitute as language discrimination–something many people feel should be covered under state and federal employment laws.
It’s unknown at this time whether the officers who were reprimanded as a result of the new policy will file suit against the police department, it appears as if they will have a challenging case on their hands. This is due in part because they will have to prove that language should be protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While it protects a person from discrimination based on their origin, the question of whether language should also fall under this category will need to be discussed. As decision either way could have a considerable effect on similar cases in the future.
Source: New York Daily News, “Nine other NYPD officers reprimanded for speaking Spanish on the job,” Joe Kemp and Rich Schapiro, June 25, 2013