VOL. 125 | NO. 44 | Friday, March 5, 2010
Bill to OK Businesses to Authorize English Only
The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Legislation that clarifies when small businesses in Tennessee can require their employees to speak English only in the workplace advanced in the House on Wednesday after failing last year.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Matthew Hill, a Jonesborough Republican, was unanimously passed on to the House Consumer and Employee Affairs Committee.
There are federal guidelines on the issue. But Hill said his measure would codify that language into state law and make it clear that English only can be required "if it is deemed as a business necessity, or for workplace safety."
Hill said the main purpose of the legislation it to allow employers to require English only "without having to be afraid of any kind of lawsuit."
For instance, he said the measure clarifies "casual conversation ... so no one can get in trouble for having casual conversation that's not job-related."
Beverly Watts, executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, said the clarification should reduce any calls of concern from state employers.
"It will help employers as well as employees understand what their rights and responsibilities are in the workplace," Watts said.
Hill said he's optimistic about the bill's chances this year because of the unanimous vote he received Wednesday. The companion bill is scheduled before the Senate Commerce Labor and Agriculture Committee.
Read HB2685/SB2753 at http://capitol.tn.gov
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