Adalah to Café Café managers: It is illegal to ban Arab employees from speaking Arabic

Managers ban employees from speaking Arabic even to Arab customers, say those who refuse to accept ban can quit; Adalah: ban and threat constitute violations of employees' rights.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter on 9 November 2016 to the managers of Café Café at Dado Beach in Haifa, demanding that they retract their order forbidding café employees from speaking in Arabic.


Palestinian Arab employees at the café recently approached Adalah and reported that managers Pe'eri Ameri and Avi Peretz convened a staff meeting at which they announced a new rule forbidding employees from speaking Arabic, both among themselves and even with Arab customers.


Ameri and Peretz also told their Arab staff that whoever refuses to abide by this new regulation is welcome to quit.


In her letter to the Café Café managers, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher wrote that the ban on the use of Arabic in the workplace is patently illegal.


"The imposed ban prevents the use of [the employees'] mother tongue, the language of the Arab population which constitutes a national minority in Israel… This coercion to speak a language that is not one's mother tongue constitutes a form of oppression against these employees. This sort of ban is humiliating and projects a message that Arab employees are inferior and unwanted. Regardless of the motives, this act is a violation of the employees' right to dignity."


In addition, Adalah also emphasized that both the ban on the Arabic language and the accompanying threat constitute a violation of employees' rights.


"The ban imposed on Arab employees –strictly due to their national affiliation – constitutes discrimination on the basis of nationality that is forbidden by law and stands in direct violation of the obligation placed upon [Café Café] by the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law – 1998. This law outlaws discrimination against employees based on their national belonging. The Arabic language is the mother tongue of Arab employees and as such is an expression of their nationality. Therefore, your statement that an employee who refuses to accept and to implement your decision may quit constitutes a threat of termination. Such a condition placed upon one's employment is not just illegal but is also a form of workplace bullying," Attorney Zaher wrote.


The ban on speaking Arabic, even to fellow Arab colleagues, is also a direct violation of the constitutional right to free expression.


Adalah calls on the Dado Beach Café Café to immediately revoke its ban on Palestinian Arab employees speaking in their mother tongue.


READ: Adalah’s letter to Cafe Cafe managers [Hebrew]