June 24, 2010
Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed a bill declaring that it is not discriminatory for employers to establish English-only policies where there are legitimate business reasons for them.
Federal courts have ruled that employers can require workers to speak English when it is for a business or safety reason but not at other times, such as when they are on breaks.
Tennessee Human Rights Commission Director Beverly Watts has said the new bill may create problems for employers because it gives the impression that broad English-only policies are acceptable.
Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker said the governor signed the measure because it does not change Tennessee law and it contains unrelated employment protections for volunteer rescue squad workers.
The bill states that those workers cannot be fired for being late to work or missing work because they were responding to an emergency.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS