EEOC Challenges English-Only Workplace Rules in Wisconsin

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced that it filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin-based company alleging national origin discrimination based on “English-only” workplace rules.

In the EEOC’s press release, the EEOC alleged that the employer terminated a number of Hmong and Hispanic employees after a 10-minute observation that identified the employees as having low English skills.  The EEOC alleged that English language skills were not necessary for the employees to perform their jobs and that the employees had otherwise received good job performance allegations.  Because the English language skills were not required for the job, the EEOC alleged that the terminations constituted prohibited national origin discrimination under Title VII, which protects the linguistic characteristics of national origin groups.

Takeaway:  The EEOC’s new case concerning English-only rules is a good reminder for employers that language requirements for a job generally must be based on a “bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.”  See 29 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(e)(1).  If that standard is not met, an English-only language rule may potentially run afoul of Title VII.  Additional information about English-only rules is available on the EEOC’s website here.

About Michael Miller

Michael is a Chambers-rated attorney in Briggs and Morgan's Employment, Benefits, and Labor group and is head of the firm’s Employment Law Counseling and Compliance practice group. He has 25 years experience counseling employers to prevent unwanted litigation and advises companies of ongoing changes in federal, state and local employment law. Michael advises employers in all areas of employment law including discipline and discharge, leaves of absence, wage and hour compliance, non-compete and confidentiality agreements, affirmative action plans, background checking, and drug/alcohol testing. For Michael's full bio, click here.

Posted on June 18, 2014, in Discrimination and Harassment and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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