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Bill would protect jobs of Spanish speakers

The Brownsville Herald

11/24/2000

AUSTIN - State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, has filed legislation to protect Texas workers from being fired for speaking a language other than English on the job.

The bill, filed for consideration when the Legislature convenes in January, would prohibit employers from requiring that only English be spoken in the workplace. Employers could, however, designate which situations require that English be spoken as a business necessity.

"The bill protects people who may choose to speak something other than English on breaks, in the restroom or on phone calls to their families. In no way does it compromise safety and health concerns," said Oliveira, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. "There should be no workplace retribution based on what language a person speaks in a non-business situation."

Oliveira's bill would require employers to provide notice of the general circumstances in which only English must be spoken in the workplace. Employers must also provide notice of the consequences of not speaking English in those situations. Oliveira said the bill is intended to protect blue-collar workers, as well as many recently immigrated high-tech workers in Texas who are non-native English speakers.

"The number of workers who speak languages other than English will continue to increase in Texas as prosperity and labor demands continue to fuel immigration," Oliveira said. "These are hard-working people who deserve to be treated fairly in the workplace, regardless of their national origin or native language."