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Language rights? Not in business, please August 21, 2009

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

The California legislature just passed a potential law, awaiting the governor’s signature, that would prohibit any business from requiring, limiting, or prohiting the use of any particular language by an employer for employees. It makes it illegal and a violation of the state’s civil rights laws (thus carrying more weight than just a law defining business practices that are allowed or banned).

Although the bill’s Senate sponsor, Leland Yee of San Francisco, says that this does not set a prohibition on businesses requiring language skills for “legitamate business needs”, that assurance will soon be lost in usage or by a court’s interpretation due to the bill’s overly broad prohibitions. If somebody speaks poor English, or Mandarin in Chinatown, it will be looked upon first as an infringement of their civil rights if they are fired (or not even hired in the first place).

I do not care one whit about private use of any language, in public, in private, in the workplace. (Although my ear does find some languages to be more jarring and others to be quite melodious). But if I want to be a customer in a store, I expect passable Engliish – at least a level where my questions are understood, the answers are understood, and the transaction is clear. If not, I will not be a patron. That affects that business, so the owner ought to be free to use language slills to devide on employees.

This is one bill that carries the freedoms too far. It adds to the growing weight where people need not learn English to function in US society, yet the proponents do not realize that such coddling limits those who speak English poorly.



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