“There’s absolutely no reason why it should suddenly become necessary for us to know English to keep our jobs.” —Martha Rivera

Language Rights Project

The Language Rights Project is dedicated to combating discrimination against language minorities—those whose primary language is not English. The Project focuses not only on language discrimination in employment, but also in the provision of government and business services, and in education.

Brief History

As overt racial and national origin discrimination gradually become less tolerated by society, they have “gone undercover” and taken on more subtle forms, including discrimination based upon individuals’ language-related characteristics. Such discrimination affects one of the most vulnerable populations in our society—recent immigrants at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder who are struggling to learn English, hold on to poorly paid jobs, or obtain access to badly needed social services.

Language discrimination can affect anyone whose native language is not English, a community that constitutes a huge segment of the United States’ population. Approximately 18% of U.S. residents and 40% of California residents over the age of five speak a language other than English at home. Census 2000 Supplementary Survey.

The Project challenges language discrimination in the workplace, including English-only rules, unwarranted English proficiency requirements, and accent discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, among others. To address the lack of bilingual services by government agencies, the Language Rights Project utilizes Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, California’s Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act and, locally, via San Francisco and Oakland’s Equal Access to Services ordinances. The Project uses a variety of strategies to challenge discrimination by private businesses and educational institutions.

Project Services

Legal advice and counseling: The Project provides individualized assistance and legal counseling to callers via the toll-free, nationwide Language Rights Information Line (800-864-1664; services provided in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English).

Community outreach and education: To educate language minority communities and others about language rights, the LRP utilizes public service announcements and other media coverage. The Project also makes available fact sheets and self-help materials in Chinese, Spanish, and English. Please see the self-help tool English-Only Rules in the Workplace. Language rights attorneys conduct presentations and trainings upon request.

Technical assistance: Language rights attorneys provide free technical assistance to attorneys and other advocates and service providers around the country in the areas of employment, the provision of government and business services, and education. Summaries of language rights case law are available upon request.

Litigation: The Project litigates cases on behalf of language minorities in employment, the provision of government and business services, and education.

Legislative advocacy: The Project participates in legislative efforts on the federal, state, and local levels on behalf of language minorities.

Need Help?

Language Rights Project

If our fact sheets or other resources do not answer all your questions and you want further help, contact our Language Rights Project Information Line.

Toll-free nationwide:
(800) 864-1664

The Language Rights Project provides free assistance and legal counseling to individuals who face language discrimination relating to employment, goverment services or business services.

Services are provided in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.