There is an interesting lawsuit against an academic institution in Colorado. Spanish-speaking custodial workers at the Auraria Higher Education Center in Colorado are suing over the failure of the Center to give them instructions in Spanish — alleging that they have faced unsafe conditions over the use of English rather than Spanish. The case suggests that the use of Spanish can not only be legally required but that the use of English can constitute a type of unsafe workplace.
Roughly a dozen custodial workers filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the Center only communicated with its workers in English. The complaint names the Metropolitan State University of Denver, the University of Colorado-Denver and the Community College of Denver.
Blaine Nickeson, an AHEC vice president, said that the AHEC does offer some translations, but that it cannot be required to use native languages for all of its employees.
I tend to agree. I cannot see how using English as the primary form of communication in the United States can be the basis for discrimination or an unsafe work environment. If schools are legally required to speak the language of custodians and other employees, can they refuse to hire non-English speaking employees or would that be a form of discrimination based on national origin? Such an obligation would presumably extend to all languages from Polish to Chinese to Spanish. It creates an added burden on businesses which could find themselves in a vice between the duty to hire without discrimination and the costs of supplying translations for any non-English speaking employees.
What do you think?