Springdale Eyes English Proficiency for Employees

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A few Springdale aldermen are concerned about the ability of some temp agency workers to speak English fluently when they are hired for city jobs.

City council member Kathy Jaycox said the concerns are based on safety issues.

"It’s to make sure that our employees are safe and our supervisors are able to give directions and follow everything that they need to," Jaycox said.

In a memo from human resources to city attorney Ernest Cate, it states there are a few concerns regarding employees from temporary agencies being fluent in English.

Mayor Doug Sprouse said Cate is looking into it but he doesn't believe anything will come of this.

"As long as we have assurances that all of our employees have the proper documentation and if they can perform their job duties satisfactory well then that's all we got to be concerned about," Sprouse said.

Sprouse said he won't support it because it's not a problem the city faces.

Sprouse said the city attorney is concerned with a conflict with federal employment laws regarding when testing workers for English proficiency is allowed and appropriate.

"As long as you can address those safety issues and communicate with your supervisor and make sure so you can perform and beyond that I don't think we have the right to ask that of anybody," Sprouse said.

Jaycox said she doesn't think requiring English proficiency is discrimination.

"It's just a simple formalizing a policy that been there for years, making sure that everybody is clearly understanding exactly what it's all about," Jaycox said.

Human Resources director Lloyd Price said the issue will likely be brought up in the next personnel meeting on April 29th.

Below is a copy of the memo.   


TO: Ernest Cate, City Attorney

FROM: Loyd Price, Director of Human Resources~

DATE: April 12, 2013

SUBJECT: Employment and English Language Skills

I have a few concerns as it relates to the requiring employees of temporary agencies to be fluent in the English language. Human resource management professionals are careful to avoid discriminating against job applicants based on national origin, especially since such discrimination is prohibited by U.S. law. We need to consider to what extent is assessing the language proficiency of job applicants or employees from non-English-speaking countries allowable? Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides clear guidelines on when such testing is allowed and appropriate.

I. English language proficiency requirements may lawfully put in place so long as the requirements are based on the level of English needed for effective performance in a specific position.

2. On the other hand, employers should avoid English language proficiency requirements that are used uniformly across widely different types of positions, since not all jobs require the same level of English skills.

3. Similarly, accent can only be a factor in employment decisions if the accent materially interferes with performance of the person's specific job duties. Also, we need to remember, employment agencies that send temporary employees to perform jobs for the City of Springdale are required to conduct background checks and I-9 verifications on all of their employees. This information is stated in the agreements with each employment agency.

If you need additional information from me please let me know.