Sunday, March 25, 2007

Speak English or No Service

Recently, I read in article on that reported a Ohio bar owner, Tom Ullum, was reprimanded for placing a sign that said, "For Service Speak English." An agency called the Housing Opportunities Made Equal filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which later ruled the sign to be discriminatory. In light of the complaint, Ullum replaced the sign with "Here We Speak English." A director with the agency said they will not take any action against the new sign because they said it will not limit service. My question is that shouldn't the agency be concerned with the intentions of Ullum, the creator of the original sign? The reason I mention this is because Ullum might have only replaced the sign because of the complaint, but he may still deny service to non-native speaking English customers. I was wondering if you guys think there is any recourse that the Ohio Civil Rights Union or other agency can do to insure his hiring practices and customer service remain fair?


Blogger Jennifer said...

That's a really interesting story that poses a great question. As far as hiring practices go, can the ability to speak English at a certain proficiency be considered a qualification for a job? It seems that employers would have the opportunity to discriminate based upon a job applicant's English speaking ability because it would most likely be deemed necessary to accomplish many jobs. However, it does not seem fair that the owner of this establishment can discriminate in this manner against who he serves and hires. The situation sounds reminiscent of segregation in some ways. I would be very interested to know what rights, if any, non-english speakers have against discrimination. Does their protection fall under national origin because their language barrier is a result of this class? Can an employer who is hiring for a position that does not require the employee to speak English (manual labor or something of the sort) not hire a candidate based on the language barrier?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Professor Prenkert said...

Jennifer (and others): Check out these resources:

EEOC Guidance on English-Only Rules

English-Only Post from last year's class blog

11:55 AM  
Blogger Sara Marker said...

This is an interesting story. I feel that if an employee can speak english during taks that require it (such as communicating with a co-worker or customer), then it shouldn't matter what language he or she chooses to speak in when they are having a personal conversation or on a cell phone, events discussed on the EEOC link. Obviously these activities would be kept to a minimum so that they wouldn't interfere with productivity.
On the other hand, I agree that refusing to serve people because of the language they speak does sound a lot like segregation. Even if this employer doesn't speak any language other than English, it's ridiculous for him to discriminate against customers who are willing to spend money in his establishent.

9:40 PM  

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