Protecting Employer Rights In Virginia

A Republican State Senator has introduced a bill that would permit employers to fire someone who cannot speak English without being liable for unemployment benefits:

RICHMOND, Jan. 16 — A Republican state senator from Fairfax County has introduced a proposal that would allow a boss to fire employees who don’t speak English in the workplace, which would make them ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II said the law is needed because a growing number of employers in Northern Virginia are frustrated that some immigrants never learn English, although they said they would when they were hired.

“The point here isn’t to be mean; the point is to allow circumstances to give employers their own ability to hire and fire people who may not speak English,” Cuccinelli said.

Now, Virginia is already an “at will” employment state, meaning that someone can be hired for fired for any reason without liability to the employer unless there was a violation of civil rights law. The problem, though, is that employers who exercise their right to fire someone who refuses to learn English face the possibility of higher unemployment taxes:

Cuccinelli said he drafted the bill after a business owner approached him last year and complained that his unemployment taxes rose after he fired someone who didn’t learn English.

“They had an understanding the employee would improve their English capabilities, and that didn’t happen,” Cuccinelli said. “We are an at-will employment state, but there is a question about having to pay more unemployment insurance.”

Well, it makes sense to me. If someone is hired with the understanding that they will speak English in the performance of their job duties, or even that they will take classes to improve their English skills, and they fail to do so, an employer should have the right to terminate them without having to worry about paying higher taxes.

The reaction from opponents, of course, is typical:

“This is the most mean-spirited piece of legislation I have seen in my 30 years down here,” Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said.

Translation — I have no real argument against this law, but Senator, you’re just a big meanie for expecting that people would live up to their promises.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

  • LBest

    Its a performance issue so they should have that right but I dont think it should be treated diferent than firing somebody for poor performance in another area.

  • Amyz

    I do not see why this has to become a “law”. This seems to me that the employer is derelict in their efforts to document. If a job requirement is not met then as a an at-will employer they should be able to terminate based on lack of performance. They need to update the policy guidelines and job description.

  • Amyz

    Lack of performance can encompass, breach of duty or neglect of duty. If they had a duty to learn a skill and failed it’s ground for corrective action. If the employer issued corrective action and the employee still failed… adios.