Is everyone else as amazed as I am about the recent decision by the Ladies Professional Golf Association [where 45 of the top 120 players on the circuit are South Korean] to demand that all players be conversant in English? I am not prone to such comments, but I can’t help but wonder if this could happen anywhere other than the U.S. I am particularly taken aback by how easily the association feels it can justify such a decision in branding/marketing terms. Consider the quote from the deputy commissioner (via NY Times):
“We live in a sports-entertainment environment,” said Libba Galloway, the deputy commissioner of the tour, the Ladies Professional Golf Association. “For an athlete to be successful today in the sports entertainment world we live in, they need to be great performers on and off the course, and being able to communicate effectively with sponsors and fans is a big part of this.”
Nothing personal ladies, just business. This explanation doesn’t seem too far removed from, “Our fans and sponsors would rather not see South Koreans win so many tournaments, so we will begin every tournament by penalizing South Korean players three strokes. If they don’t like it, they can go home. Nobody is forcing them to play.”
This makes me wonder, as a legal/moral issue, where the appropriate line lies between “workplace discrimination” and “responsible business practices given the needs/demands of your patrons.” Clearly, it is illegal for a restaurant owner to not hire a server because he is worried about losing his racist patrons. Conversely, Bucknell University is justified in expecting that its faculty members are able to teach in English.
The relevant question seems to be, “Is this characteristic/skill central to performing the job?” According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “A rule requiring that employees speak only English on the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement is necessary for conducting business. If the employer believes such a rule is necessary, employees must be informed when English is required and the consequences for violating the rule.”
The language “if the employer believes such a rule is necessary” is quite striking, and seems to potentially be in conflict with the demand in the previous sentence that employers show that the requirement is necessary for conducting business. As the LPGA case illustrates, decisions regarding “what is necessary for conducting business” can be quite controversial/potentially racist.
Any thoughts on these matters? Can someone point me to particularly excellent literature on the subject?