I saw an interesting sports story today.  According to Sportsnet, the LPGA “will require golfers to speak English starting in 2009, with players who have been members for two years facing suspension if they can’t pass an oral evaluation of English skills. The rule is effective immediately for new players.”

This is interesting from an HR perspective.  It raises the question of “bona fide” occupational requirements; i.e. what can an employer reasonably require of a worker to perform their job.

Speaking English definitely isn’t required to succeed on the golf course (that would be driving accuracy, hitting greens in regulation, and number of putts), but it is definitely important when interacting with sponsors, the media, and of course, the fans. And ultimately, it’s all about selling the sport and generating lucrative sponsorship and media revenues.

But is requiring English to be spoken or else suspending them really going to boost the business? Would you suspend Tiger Woods if he couldn’t speak English? Would you suspend the #1 woman golfer if she couldn’t speak English? Is that what will attract and retain the best of women golfers world-wide? Is this really the message that the LPGA wants to convey?

So what’s reasonable for you for to require from your workforce? Remember that any rule must be critical to the function of job.  And most importantly, consider the impact the rules might have on the attraction and retention of your employees.  What reputation do you want to have as an employer? What impact will this have on the employer branding of the LPGA?


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