Federal Government Sues Private Company For Requiring Employees To Speak English On The Job

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against a Wisconsin-based manufacturer for firing Hmong and Hispanic employees because they don’t speak English on the job.

The EEOC says it’s a matter of discrimination based on an employee’s “national origin, which includes the linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.” In this case, Wisconsin Plastics, Inc. allegedly violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by firing non-English speakers “based on 10-minute observations that marked them down for their English skills, even though those skills were not needed to perform their jobs.”

In other words, those groups’ linguistic characteristics must be honored by employers who typically are more interested in productivity and profit than hurting someone’s feelings during a scheduled work shift because they can’t communicate with them.

It’s not clear what criteria the EEOC used to determine whether speaking English is an essential workplace skill at Wisconsin Plastics.

“Our experience at the EEOC has been that so-called ‘English only’ rules and requirements of English fluency are often employed to make what is really discrimination appear acceptable,” EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson offered in the EEOC’s press release earlier this month.

“But superficial appearances are not fooling anyone. When speaking English fluently is not, in fact, required for the safe and effective performance of a job, nor for the successful operation of the employer’s business, requiring employees to be fluent in English usually constitutes employment discrimination on the basis of national origin – and thus violates federal law.”

Nonprofit government watchdog Judicial Watch blasted the EEOC’s construction of the law in this case, calling its explanation of the basis for the suit “twisted” and observing how the case fits within a wider pattern of counterintuitive progressive Obama Administration policies that hurt businesses and stifle incentives to hire anyone.

“Under President Obama the EEOC has taken a number of unprecedented actions to protect foreigners in the workplace, including illegal immigrants,” wrote Judicial Watch. “In 2009 the agency issued a controversial order making a workplace English rule illegal. The directive came after the EEOC bullied a national healthcare firm to pay nearly half a million dollars to settle a discrimination lawsuit in which the government alleged that Hispanic workers were punished for speaking Spanish.

“The agency has been on a roll ever since, taking legal action against businesses across the country accusing them of everything from discriminating against minorities for running criminal background and credit checks to discriminating against Muslims for not allowing hijabs on the job.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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