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Know Your Language Requirements for Legal Notices

February 23, 2018

Question: Are there any requirements for a company to provide legal notices in languages other than English for employees who do not speak English?

Answer: The Department of Labor provides many legal notices and posters in multiple languages, but some posters are available only in English. In most cases there is no requirement for a company to provide legal notices to employees in a language other than English. However, there are exceptions for notices for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), Executive Order 13496 (Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and in some state statutes. 

For FMLA, you are required to provide the notice for workers in another language if your workforce includes a significant portion of workers who are not literate in English. MSPA requires you provide the notice in Spanish or another language common to migrant or seasonal agricultural workers who are not fluent or literate in English. Finally, for Executive Order 13496, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to post translations of both the physical and electronic postings if a significant portion of a contractor’s workforce is not proficient in English. The required notices should be in the languages the employees speak. Lastly, OSHA regulations require employers to provide employees with information and training on hazardous chemicals in the workplace. If the employees do not understand English, the employer must inform and train the employees in the language that they understand. 

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Some final thoughts around posting notices: Even though you are not legally required to provide most legal notices in a language other than English, it’s important to consider the needs of your employees. Ultimately, you want your employees to understand their rights and responsibilities for their own well being and the for the best interests of the company. As a best practice, if you have employees whose first language is not English, make a concerted effort to accommodate them and provide legal notices in languages they can understand.

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