Impact of proposed English-speaking bill on Tennessee

By: Stephen McLamb
By: Stephen McLamb

Knoxville (WVLT) -- A bill has passed the state senate and is now headed to the house would give employers a right to hire only English- speaking people.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb spoke with businesses and leaders of the Hispanic community about the bill and has more

Some business owners say they are pleased it's voluntary and not mandatory.

But some in the Hispanic community feel it's a state's way of dealing with illegal immigration and could lead to discrimination.

In running a business, language barriers can be a problem.

Ken Hawkins, Money to Go owner says, "if they can't understand us then we can't really do business with them and vice versa, sometimes we can't understand them."

A bill now goes to the state House from the Senate which would allow employers the right to mandate workers speak English in the workplace.

Darrell Parrott, Wholesale Transmission Service Owner says, "I'm one hundred percent for it."

Darrell Parrott owns Wholesale Transmission Service in Blount county.

His employees do technical work that he must relay from customers and if the employee can't speak English like Parrott.

Parrott says, "to me, he would be just useless. I mean, it just absolutely couldn't work. I don't know of any way of making it work."

But down the road at Money To Go, owner Ken Hawkins and his employees deal with the public and not everybody they deal with speaks English.

"Our Spanish speaking community is growing around here and so I would not be totally against hiring someone that is fluent in Spanish."

The bill would not be mandatory but let individual business owners decide, something both Parrott and Hawkins agree on.

Roberto Martinez, with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says,"well, I think that will be detrimental for our community in general."

Martinez disagrees with the bill.

He feels it is a violation of free speech.

With the bill allowing for discretion, that, he says, sometimes leads to discrimination by some business owners.

"Wouldn't know the difference between the point of discrimination and the point of making an assessment as of how to hire an employee or hiring and firing an employee."

Representative Doug Overybey says Senator Raymond Finney was a cosponsor of the senate bill.

Both Finney and Representative Joe McCord were unavailable for comment on the bill.

Overbey says he has not yet read the bill and was unable to comment.

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