Requiring job applicants to speak Spanish isn't evidence of bias

Can They Do That?

Your Money

December 19, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

I responded to a newspaper ad for a warehouse job. The woman who took my call asked me right off the bat if I spoke Spanish. I said, "No," and she said, "Don't even bother to apply." Since when does a warehouse job require you to speak another language? This doesn't seem fair. Is this reverse discrimination?

Whether discrimination played a part in the brush-off depends on what prompted it, according to Lewis L. Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, N.J.

For example, if you need to be fluent in Spanish to speak to the company's clients, then that skill "would be a legitimate requirement," Maltby said. "There are jobs in which being able to speak another language is a legitimate requirement, and it might be the case here."

On the other hand, he said, "If the boss is Hispanic and he just likes to hire other Hispanics, that's not kosher."

Your case could be difficult to prove because it's such a new area, he said. But that shouldn't stop you if you feel your rights have been violated. You may have suffered reverse discrimination on the basis of national origin. Contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 800-669-4000.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@ tribune.com.

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