Forcing employees who speak multiple languages to handle additional language-related duties, in addition to their regular workloads can be a form of illegal discrimination under federal law.
A multilingual job applicant often finds this quality to be a huge plus in the job market. But this can quickly become a huge minus on the job, as the employer begins to pile on additional, language-driven responsibilities in addition to the regular workload.
Courts have consistently held that federal anti-discrimination laws kick in when a multilingual employee is forced to bear a substantially-greater workload than his or her coworkers who don’t speak anything but English. this is because language is often closely associated with ethnicity and national origin. Heavier workloads can lead to poorer job performance as the multilingual employee struggles to balance the extra work. This can in turn, affect promotional opportunities, eligibility for bonuses, and of course can lead to termination.
An employer who adjusts the workload – so that a multilingual employee performs different, but not more work – probably isn’t violating the law. That would depend on whether the language-driven tasks requires working unusual shifts, work in undesirable locations or work that typically doesn’t lead to advancement within the organization.
Questions to ask, if you find yourself in this situation:
- Do the language-related tasks add substantially to my workload, such that I am forced to do more than my coworkers who don’t speak more than one language?
- Am I compensated for the extra, language-related work I do?
- Do the language-related tasks affect the quality of my other work, because I don’t have time to do it right like my coworkers?
- Am i being denied opportunities for advancement because my language-driven duties don’t allow me the chance to perform assignments usually necessary to move up the ladder?
Talk to an employee-rights lawyer if you have questions about your rights. Ask the lawyer if their practice is limited to representing employees only, or whether he or she also represents employers. There are many fine lawyers who represent employers, but they usually have a different view of employees than a lawyer who only represents employees. And be sure to ask the lawyer about their specific experience, and the number of cases they’ve handled. Employment law is a complex field. Experience makes a difference.