HR Hotline: Can Workplace Posters Be in English Only?
Q: Are we required to have our workplace posters in languages other than English?
A: Generally speaking, workplace posting requirements are intended to inform employees of certain legal rights and obligations, including specific deadlines set by law for filing claims, or agencies and insurers they must contact if they have a complaint, such as OSHA or workers’ compensation.
If a worker’s predominant language is not English, they may not understand the notices, although individuals may be able to get around missing a reporting deadline, or avoid discipline for failing to follow certain reporting requirements, by claiming ignorance due to a language barrier.
Your obligation as an employer regarding posters is to ensure the necessary information is available to your workforce.
Typical guidance from a governmental agency on this is “where an employer’s workforce is comprised of a significant portion of workers who are not literate in English, the employer shall provide the general notice in a language in which the employees are literate.”
As might be expected, there is no regulatory or statutory definition as to how many workers constitute a significant portion of your population.
Please also note that many rights against discrimination, harassment, and the like, extend to applicants as well as employees.
So, for example, although you may have no current employees who lack fluency in English, if your applicant pool appears to include many people not fluent in English, you should consider whether such postings need to be in their predominant language.
Two state law posting requirements specifically refer to the necessity of displaying the notices in both English and Spanish:
- Connecticut’s Pregnancy Discrimination Standards, which apply to employer with three or more workers
- Connecticut’s Paid Sick Leave Law, which applies to nonmanufacturing employers with 50 or more workers
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