In a bizarre twist on civil rights legislation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Barack Obama is filing a federal lawsuit against a Wisconsin company for its requirement that employees use English at work.
The legal action came after a number of Hispanic and Asian workers were fired because they could not – or would not – speak English, a decision the EEOC said amounted to discrimination.
Using the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the commission found that the “linguistic characteristics of a national origin group” are included in the protections contained therein.
In an interview with CNS News, the Spanish media liaison at Judicial Watch offered her take on the “ludicrous” suit.
“If you are a private company in the United States,” Irene Garcia said, “you should be able to require your employees to speak English.”
She went on to describe the EEOC’s stance as “an overreaching of government.”
As for the commission, a press release regarding the recent action quoted Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson, who alleged that English-only requirements are a “superficial” ploy to advance inherent racism or xenophobia.
“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,” he asserted, “requiring employees to be fluent in English usually constitutes employment discrimination on the basis of national origin – and thus violates federal law.”
Garcia countered that position, noting that the targeted company, Wisconsin Plastics Inc., does rely on the ability of its employees to have some proficiency in a common language.
“In this case, some English is necessary to communicate with supervisors and stuff like that,” she said; “and the EEOC just went after this private company because some employees were being marked down for not having English skills – so that doesn’t really make sense.”
She concluded that this allegation of discrimination is just the latest in a long line of absurd EEOC rulings under the current administration.
“We’ve seen some decisions that are kind of radical that we haven’t seen in the past,” she said, “under Republican or Democrat administrations.”
Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)
BCN editor’s note: This article first appeared at Western Journalism.