EEOC SETTLES CASE ON HARASSMENT AND SPEAK-ENGLISH-ONLY RULES

The EEOC announced a settlement for $450,000 ($50,000 in attorney fees) for 18 Hispanic employees on grounds of harassment based on national origin and for a Speak-English-Only rule that the EEOC found had an adverse impact on Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders and was not job related and consistent with business necessity. The consent decree ( EEOC v. Mesa Sys., Inc., D. Utah, No. 11-1201, consent decree entered 9/27/13) was approved by Judge Robert J. Shelby of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-30-13a.cfm). Though harassment of any kind is always of interest, the more important issue in this case is the Speak-English-Only rule.

The EEOC has been on a warpath against Speak-English-Only rules since the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the 9th Circuit ruling in the much-heralded case of Garcia v. Spun Steak. (1993) [13 F.3d 296]. The Supreme Court’s decision meant the 9th Circuit’s ruling (favoring Spun Steak’s policy) was permitted to stand despite the EEOC’s efforts to overturn the 9th Circuit ruling. Undeterred, the EEOC has subsequently mounted a strong offensive in this domain leading to a number of major settlements. Some examples include:

I could go on and on. This is but a sample of the EEOC’s war against Speak-English-Only rules and the warning is clear – stay away from such policies unless you have reasons for imposing them that are clearly job related and consistent with business necessity.

by Art Gutman, Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

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