erizon Is Enforcing an English-Only Policy â and the Reason Might Surprise You
Verizon Is Enforcing an English-Only Policy â and the Reason Might Surprise You
Three employees of a Verizon dispatch center in Tampa, Fla. recently were overheard speaking Spanishânot to customers, but to each other.
For a fellow dispatch employee nearby, that warranted a complaint.
That employee didnât speak SpanishâŚand felt excluded.
And so Margaret Hess, a Verizon employee of 33 years who was among the Spanish-speaking employees, got the word: English only.
A local supervisor told Hess they could no longer speak Spanish on the dispatch floor unless it was to customers or for other work-related matters, according to Biz Journals. Spanish conversation was allowed for lunch breaks or other areas off the dispatch floor, she told La Gaceta.
Verizon spokesman Bob Elek confirmed the incident, and described the company language policy this way, according to the Tampa Tribune:
âGenerally, we tell employees they can speak Spanish (or any other language) on break, lunch or any time away from the work area,â he wrote in an official statement. However, when employees are on the dispatch center floor or other work setting, they should speak English, he said. This promotes âpositive employee relationsâ because itâs courteous to co-workers, and employees should be âmindfulâ of making others feel uncomfortable, Elek said, ânot because theyâre speaking Spanishâ, but because for some it can create a feeling of separation versus inclusion.â
Elek told the Tribune that Verizon encourages employees to speak Spanish as part of their jobsâwhen itâs necessary to communicate with Spanish-speaking customers or for other business reasons.
More from Biz Journals:
Enforcing such a rule is risky for any company, according to Phillip Russell, shareholder at labor and employment firm Ogletree Deakins in Tampa. He spoke in general about the law itself and is not involved with this incident.
âThe only time you can really find [the English-only rule] enforceable is for the employer to operate safely and efficiently,â Russell said. âIf the conversations are personal about where you want to go for lunch, etc., itâs going to be difficult for the employer for that to be enforceable.â
This issue âpops up all the time because thereâs friction between cultures,â Tony Morejon, a cultural affairs liaison, told the Tribune. âI encourage people to learn English âŚ but some employees are going to resent this kind of rule. Some will say they wonât speak Spanish for business purposes unless theyâre required to, because they feel used. Like âOh when you want me to speak Spanish you say do that, but not other times.ââ