Can My Last Employer Take Action About A Racism Accusation On My Last Day?

Question:

I have been accused of being racist on my last working day at my previous employer. To my knowledge I haven’t been racist but they’ve taken whatever I said to heart and portrayed it as a racial comment. I do not work for the company anymore. Can they still take action and if so what could it be?

Response:

You do not say if the racist actions or comments were said to have happened on your last day or if you were told about it on your last day, but it had happened previously—or if you were asked to leave over a number of things, racism being one of them, or if you were leaving with good feelings until the accusation was made. Those factors would make a difference in how you were viewed by managers and coworkers.

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How Do I Overcome A Blacklist or File Discrimination?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about not being promoted and feeling of discrimination.

I work for the federal government and took a change to lower grade to work in another section to build on my skills. I was told that it was a training position and we would learn this job to prepare us for advancement. Five years later I am still in same spot. I have trained others who were selected in same field of work who were then promoted over me. I spoke with my bosses, I have had several and have to prove my worth each time, but they select others to train and work towards promotion.

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What Can I Do About a Rumor That Could Ruin My Life?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an untrue accusation of an affair at work.

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Question:
I work in a retail environment with eight other coworkers of different genders. A male coworker works night shift and when we close the store our jobs require us to walk the store for a hand-off. Someone recently accused us of having an affair. The store manager approached the night manager to ask him. At this time I was not aware of the rumour because HR asked the store manager to investigate (HR never asked me). A couple weeks later the night manager was approached by the store manager again and asked about it. He informed the manager that it was not true and he wanted to squash the rumour like the first time. 

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Have To Speak Only English

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about language:
I was told today by my boss I can not longer speak Spanish with my coworker because it make my Non-Spanish speaking coworkers uncomfortable. I can only speak Spanish in my breaks is that Legal for them to make me speak only English just because they do not feel comfortable?
Is it Legal to Have an English-Only Workplace?
Signed,
Uncomfortable
_________
Dear Uncomfortable:
We have gotten questions such as your as you might see in our Archives. No more complete and understanding of your discomfort can be read in the following answer by Associate Workplace Doctor Tina Lewis Rowe. It is copied below. Please let us know if you feel it speaks to you.
http://workplacedr.comm.kent.edu/wordpress/category/intercultural-conflicts/
As always, we’ll state that we are not attorneys and do not have special training in this area of employment law. However, having said that, we can give you our opinion, based on research. Yes, your employer can require English to be spoken in the workplace if you are allowed to speak Spanish with your Spanish-speaking coworkers in casual settings such as breaks. An attorney may tell you differently and you may wish to pursue the matter that way, but it sounds as though your employer is being reasonable about when you can use each language and is not prohibiting you from being relaxed on breaks.
According to the EEOC, the following are some situations in which business necessity would justify an English-only workplace rule:
• For communications with customers, coworkers, or supervisors who only speak English
• In emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety
• For cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency
• To enable a supervisor who only speaks English to monitor the performance of an employee whose job duties require communication with coworkers or customers.
• When having more than one language spoken for non-business purposes is disruptive to the maintenance of an effective workplace.
• There could be exceptions, but they would be considered on a case by case basis. A very tough way to look at it is that you are being paid to work, not to talk to friends about non-work matters, so there would be no reason to speak Spanish except at breaks when you can have casual conversations.
• Another way to look at it is that if you want to be a productive and effective member of the workplace, you will be able to achieve that easier when you are not perceived as being discourteous or trying to exclude others–or talk about them without them knowing about it. You may not intend it that way, but that is the way it will always be seen. And I would bet some of your conversations are of a nature you would not want to have translated exactly. (Just human nature!)
• From an employer’s viewpoint, one reason to have an English-only workplace is that any conversation can be distracting, but a conversation in another language cannot be ignored—it catches the attention and keeps it. So, it becomes a very big distraction.
• I can understand the comfort level of being able to speak in your first language–and apparently your employer can as well, which is why you have been approved to speak Spanish during break times. Probably your company’s legal advisers have suggested it, with the intention of fulfilling any EEOC requirements for workplaces with bilingual employees.
• If you never realized there were concerns about you speaking Spanish, you can use this as a way to tell coworkers and your boss that you didn’t realize anyone was made uncomfortable and that was not your intention–and that you will certainly comply with the direction. If you have been aware of the concerns but continued to speak Spanish anyway, you may want to still express that you weren’t aware of how much of a problem it was. The reality is that you apparently will continue working there and it will be better if you can work with everyone without conflict–and with a reputation for being cooperative and friendly. I hope your Spanish-speaking friend (s) will take the same approach and will not ruin your break times with unhappiness over this situation. Unless it’s worth changing jobs over, it’s better to treat it as a job requirement that can be tolerated—and maybe one day the situation will change.
• Best wishes to you with this matter.
–Tina Rowe

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Are They Talking About Me?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about feeling excluded because of the boss and a coworker speaking in a different language

My boss constantly speaks Punjab to one of the employees in front of me when she and the employee speak fluent English. Is this allowed in the work place. I feel like I am constantly being talked about due to the fact they only do it around me.

Signed Feeling Excluded

Dear Feeling Excluded: There are few things more aggravating than not knowing the language of others who are talking in your presence. Is it allowed? I know of no law against that. Do you want your boss to not speak in Punjab to this particular employee? I’m sure you have you considered how speaking to an employee in his/her native language is uniquely appreciated and probably more efficient?

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Excluded Because of Language Differences

Question:

Hello, I work in a bakery in the US. When I took the job it was to learn. They needed “just the right person” and apparently they thought it was me.

When I started there were other English-speaking people in the kitchen but now, three months later, I am one of only two English speakers who work in the kitchen. The other one is a decorator, so we don’t work directly together.

I speak a small amount of Spanish and as the days go on the other workers in the kitchen speak more and more Spanish and less-to-no English throughout the day. I am feeling more and more isolated and becoming frustrated daily.

When I do speak to the other English-speaking person the other employees stare at us. It feels weird. Then the other weird thing is my bosses/ owners do not speak any Spanish and are often asking for translation, but they are not there all of the time.

I have been working in kitchens for about 15 years and have worked with many Hispanic people and have never had this problem before. I need some advice on how to deal with this.

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Coworkers Use Language To Shut Me Out

Question:

I am the only black lady in the office and I can’t understand Afrikaans. My co-workers always communicate in Afrikaans,even about important work related things and I don’t understand, so I feel like a fool.

Also, they always put the air conditioning on a very cold temperature which I cannot handle. They never talk to me. I’m really frustrated!

Signed,

Out In the Cold

Answer:

Dear Out In the Cold:

I can certainly understand why you would feel frustrated and isolated if people are speaking a language you don’t understand and you feel they are doing it purposely to shut you out. The other issues would add to it as well.

You don’t say what the national language is or what language you thought was going to be used in the office when you were hired. Apparently there are a large group of employees who prefer their native language. That might be acceptable under the law for personal conversations, but it’s not a good thing for getting work done and it’s certainly rude to do it all the time to exclude others. However, it happens in many workplaces all over the world and nearly always creates the bad feelings you’re experiencing.

I don’t think you are in the United States, so some of your solution options may be different than here, based on culture and laws. However, I’ll suggest some things that you can try.

1. Ask your coworkers for a translation of what they just said, especially when you think the conversation is about work. Even if you feel angry about it, try saying in a friendly tone, “I think that was about work and I don’t want to miss out on it. What was it you said?” Or, “I heard something about work, is that something I need to know about?”

If the conversation is obviously a personal one, you could pick one or two times a day to let people know you’d like to be part of the group. You might say, “I don’t know what you two were laughing about, but it sounds like fun!”

That way you’re not asking for a translation, just stating a fact and they can decide if they want to share.

You might consider learning a word or phrase or two in Afrkaans, so you can convey that you need to understand what was just said.

The important thing is to not let yourself be shut out. Be part of work, no matter what language is being spoken. The more you withdraw, the less they will feel the need to include you.

2. Talk to your supervisor and ask for assistance. He or she is responsible for the workplace. Focus on the language issue, since that is the most obvious thing. It may be that you can’t do anything about people speaking their native language when it is not about work, but if work is involved and you need the information they should at least repeat to ensure you know it. If you have examples of times when you didn’t get work done or had trouble doing work, because of the langugage difference, be sure to give that example.

3. If talking to your coworkers and to your supervisor isn’t helpful, go to the Human Resource section of your company or to the person who does hiring. Other employees may be having a similar problem or it may be that this is something the larger company is having to deal with. If you were hired thinking your own language was going to be spoken when the conversation was about work, that is something that needs to be brought to the attention of the hiring section or person.

If, on the other hand, your work does not require a great deal of coworker interaction (manufacturing or manual labor) the company may feel that as long as your supervisor communicates with you clearly, that is all that matters. That would be a shame, but it may be a fact.

4. As important as it is for you to understand work-related conversation, the bigger issue is that you and maybe others are made to feel left out at work. This is also something your supervisor should know about. There will always be groups of friends who hang out together, but there should still be an overall feeling that everyone is part of the larger group and no one is shut out or made to feel unimportant.

If there is even one other employee there with whom you have a closer relationship, talk to her about how you have been feeling. Ask if she knows the root cause of the behavior of the others. It may not be purposely directed at you, even though it’s frustrating. It might at least help to know that.

If your group has meetings, consider bringing up this topic in a way that is focused on working better together.

5. If an employee is not liked because he or she is doing something or not doing something that makes the other employees angry, they should go to a supervisor about it. They should not do their own punishment of the individual by the way they treat him or her.

I’m not saying that you have done anything wrong, but it never hurts to look at one’s own behavior and performance to make sure that the others have no excuses for their actions. Make sure you are doing your work well and that no one can say you don’t try to get along with others. Be the best employee possible in every way. If you receive performance evaluations, be the one who is at the top. That kind of value to the business will help you when you talk to your supervisor as well.

6. You mention the temperature issue, and that is more challenging. Usually people won’t be uncomfortably hot or cold just to bother someone else. So, I would guess they all like the area cooler and you may need to adjust your clothing to allow you to deal with it. If it only needs to be adjusted a few degrees to feel more comfortable, talk to your supervisor about that. But, if everyone else would need to be too warm the solution will probably have to be for you to wear layers to stay warmer yourself. I realize that’s not optimal, because your hands, ears and nose may feel too cool, but it may be the only real solution.

If you have a personal work space, maybe you can do something to make it warmer. Or, maybe you can buy heated pads for your shoes or to tuck inside your clothing. I used to heat a thermal pad in the microwave in the breakroom and put it behind my back as a way to stay warmer at my desk for a few hours!

I wish there was some easy solution to your situation, but I don’t think there probably will be one. This will be a time when you may need to decide if you want to stay there or leave to find work where you can be included and where you know you will not be dealing with this type of issue. If you stay, I think you will need to firmly but in a friendly manner, put yourself into the middle of work and at least a few conversations, to show that you don’t want to feel left out.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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I Don’t Read Spanish

Question:

My hospital in CA routinely puts up sign for contact isolation in Spanish only, and then the nursing staff for not understanding them rebukes me. I do not read Spanish. These times that I fail to follow isolation rules can be reported to my supervisor and can get me fired. Is this fair? Also the hospital requires me to use consent forms that are in Spanish for those who primarily speak Spanish. While they understand the form, I have no idea what it says. I am concerned that if am asked what it says in court I can’t defend my signature. Is it safe for non-Spanish readers to work here?

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Everyone But Me Speaks Another Language

Question:

I work at a job where the majority of the people are of the same nationality, except for me. They speak in their language for the whole 12 hours I am at work and this makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m afraid to afraid to say anything because my boss is thier nationality too.

They often gang up on me and are very rude when I ask for help. When they talk in their language it always is about another person outside their race. This is really taking a toll on me!

Signed,

Left Out

Answer:

Dear Left Out:

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Must I Speak Spanish To Get A Job?

Question:

I am one of many recently unemployed Americans who can’t get a job because I don’t speak Spanish. I was born in this country from American parents who were also born here and have spoken nothing but the English language. I am a US Navy Veteran as well and am proud to fly the American flag. However, because I don’t speak Spanish, I am unable to get work. I live in Texas and am angered that the Mexican flag is flown in many places and not the American flag. I want to know why English is not the official language in this country and why is it that other country’s flags are allowed to fly? If you are in this country, fly our flag, not yours unless you work at an embassy. Also, can one be prevented from getting a job if they are not bilingual? Can I file this as a form of discrimination?

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