Obama Administration Sues Wisconsin Company For Requiring All Employees To Speak English

720px-US-EEOC-Seal.svgThere is an interesting case out of Green Bay, Wisconsin where Wisconsin Plastics, Inc. (WPI) is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for making English speaking a condition of employment. WPI was found by the EEOC to be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on national origin. The company fired Hispanic and Asian employees on the basis of not speaking English in the workplace.

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson stated that “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,. 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.”

The EEOC said that the action was taken after relatively short interviews to judge the English ability of the employees. In 2009 the agency issued a controversial order making a workplace English rule illegal.

While clearly any threshold rule can be used for superficial and discriminatory ways, the Obama Administration seems to view English only rules as per se discriminatory as opposed to an “as applied” discriminatory practice. However, I could see legitimate reasons for a business to want a single language to be spoken by all employees from efficiency to safety concerns.

Here is the policy from the EEOC website:

The EEOC has stated that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless they are reasonable necessary to the operation of the business.

A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified.

An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.

Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.

Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it.

It seems to rule out the argument that a business generally functions more efficiency with a single language in use and that multiple languages can impede actions taken in emergency situations like workplace accidents.

What do you think?

Kudos: Michael Blott

137 thoughts on “Obama Administration Sues Wisconsin Company For Requiring All Employees To Speak English”

  1. Wow, a lot of the comments make me wonder is this is Jon Turley’s blog, or the comments section over at fox news.com.

    Seriously. This nation will bankrupt itself to kill brown people overseas, but when it comes to helping refuges, suddenly we can’t afford it.

    Pick a priority. You don’t have to support immigration to be a good American, and supporting it doesn’t mean you are the enemy of America. What it means is people disagree. But when it turns into ‘there is an anti-Christian war in America’ and thinly veiled, coded racism, maybe some of you should sit down, take your meds, and come back when your comments are something other than wing-nut conspiracy theory.

    But don’t act like you are the victim. The victim is the entire Nation, because rather than work together like adults to solve out problems, we just whine at each other on the Internet, and blame someone else.

    And as to the topic. The business hired these people, and I highly doubt the employee’s grasp of English was something missed at hiring. While I do see situations where a certain skill of English should be required, why were these people fine to hire before, but now their jobs are forfeit because of their lack of English skills? No one seems to want to answer that question, maybe I’m taking crazy pills to think it is at all relevant.

    But ignore me, I come here to be informed and even learn. If that isn’t allowed, I will just go somewhere else. I can find bigots pretty much anywhere.

  2. mespo, would that be the optimist in you that sees ilk, stoops to employing uncivil exchange, makes half-empty extensions by assigning, in stretch fashion, characteristics of a fictional character whose dialogue was used merely to make a point, which point, itself, you chose to view as half empty? And would that be the optimist in you that motivated your half-empty reply to first begin this exchange? Just yesterday, you assigned emotional/mental problems to a teenager who may be in fact be more normal than you. An optimist would see him as a victim, not a perp. I could go on, if I wanted to be bothered, and find perhaps hundreds of comments you’ve made, all half empty, affirming that you are not an optimist but a suffering pessimist — in denial. The half-full, half-empty view is worn out and silly, employed as substitute for lacking creativity to come up with something original. In fairness, on occasion I’ve read comments of yours as profound analysis of matters I couldn’t otherwise fully grasp on my own. Another time, by your own admission, we came to full agreement. Of course, the real origin of your exchange lies with your reaction to my comparing Nazi hate speech against Jews, to that of hate speech today against Christians, pro lifers, and conservatives. That was just too profound an observation to swallow, hit not only too close to home but too close to the truth, and blinded and paralyzed by ideological hatred of religion, pro-life, and conservatives, you were powerless to contain the pessimism that set off your half-empty exchange. A true optimist would have viewed my observation as cause for pause and introspection, make him say to himself, “Maybe she’s right; maybe I should tone things down a bit, maybe consider that freedom and personal rights belong to everyone, not just those on my side.”

  3. “I discovered her in the steerage, by Wolf Larsen’s bunk. looked at him, the man who had been hurled down from the topmost pitch of life to be buried alive and be worse than dead. There seemed a relaxation of his expressionless face which was new. Maud looked at me and I understood.

    “His life flickered out in the storm,” I said.

    “But he still lives,” she answered, infinite faith in her voice.

    “He had too great strength.”

    “Yes,” she said, “but now it no longer shackles him. He is a free spirit.”

    “He is a free spirit surely,” I answered; and, taking her hand, I led her on deck.”

    ~Jack London, The Sea Wolf.

  4. Samantha:

    Just a Freudian observation. You like the glass half-empty view of life as your choice of characters reveals. I like the one half-full. I identify with the optimist, you the cynic. Nothing to be ashamed of, I suppose, unless, that is, you think there is.

  5. mespo, actually, I identify more with Jack London’s narrator than Wolf Larson, whose dialogue, in the context I employ it, belongs more to the genius of London, himself, than any fictional character. Of course, you could not say London is a poster boy for my side because, well, he was on your side, the most-read revolutionary Socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and assassination of political leaders. I might have come up with something on my own, but it certainly would never carry the weight of a London. Still, I’m both flattered and amused by your comment, even had stitches that aroused curiosity in my dog who continues to stare at me, convinced something is up, unable to comprehend that I see your reply as whispers of dissent within the leftist echo chamber, uncivil dissent for labeling me ilk. When something raises your hackles, it’s an intimidation response, to make yourself appear bigger than you are, to scare off rather than engage and face an uncertain outcome.

  6. Samantha:

    Wolf Larson’s a good poster boy for your side. Hated by his brother, the bitter, brutal sea captain engages in all manner of mayhem and subterfuge to thwart the efforts of civilized persons to survive. Left blinded and paralyzed by his ideological hatred of anything good or true, he unsuccessfully tries suicide. Yes as miserable and cynical as they come he finds the world as despicable as he becomes. A true conservative of this age with all the attendant self-loathing. A poster boy, indeed, and, no surprise to me based on your commentary, a hero to you and you’re ilk.

  7. But it’s okay to place employment ads saying, “Spanish speaking encouraged to apply”. What’s the difference between that and saying “White only” 70 years ago?

  8. Appleton, first, I’m respectful of the time you’ve invested to reply, which, put that way, is a challenge to find disagreement. However, when it comes to the “value of unions in protecting that dignity by levelling the
    playing field between labor and capital,” I’m sure we agree there is no level playing field between labor and taxpayers, who’ve lost their representation because politicians have thrown in with those profiting from taxes. Imagine the cost of a vehicle if GM management abandoned stockholders and instead got in bed with union bosses? That pretty much sums up public sector unions and taxpayers. I could go on but it would just be another trip around the barn, a long way from our starting point, which was my curiosity about hate speech during the Nazi era.

    pete, I did qualify my comment with “most.” Your point?

  9. samantha@3:06p.m.

    In most communities, even small ones, there are as many as 20 different churches and religions. It’s always been this way.

    no it has not. many religions formed their own communities when they came to the new world.

  10. samantha:

    I was raised and educated in a religious tradition that does not regard science as an enemy of religion, that finds no incompatibility between Christianity and evolution, that regards the destruction of the environment as violative of our obligations as stewards of the earth (which is to say, a sin), that rejects the notion that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and that likewise rejects the notion that the poor are victims of their own sloth and an unwelcome drain on the resources of the righteous. I was raised and educated in a religious tradition that emphasized both the dignity of work and the dignity of the worker, and recognized the value of unions in protecting that dignity by levelling the playing field between labor and capital. And I was raised and educated in a religious tradition that condemns as false the view that America was built by, and is reserved for, only those who adhere to a particular version of Christianity. That is my alternative.

    I have no “fear” of the left or the right, atheists or believers, geniuses or idiots. But I am not happy with what I view as the dumbing down of educational standards in this country, the lack of intellectual rigor in public policy debates, the notion that all opinions have equal value and the ridiculous idea that facts may be properly accepted or rejected based upon one’s “beliefs.”

  11. Paul Schulte:

    1. As a Roman Catholic, I am hardly “unnerved” by the prominence of Catholics on the bench. My disagreements with the majority are solely over constitutional interpretation.

    2. I am as close to a First Amendment absolutist as you are likely to encounter. I fervently support freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of association. At the same time, I do not believe that the fact that one’s opinions are founded upon religious belief grants them immunity from criticism, or even from ridicule. So I oppose all efforts to criminalize or otherwise punish insults to religion, which includes laws prohibiting “blasphemy.” It is my view that no idea is entitled to special protection. There is a distinction between criticizing what you believe and condemning your right to hold those beliefs, a distinction which has been lost on too many people.

    3. Christian fundamentalism in its modern form dates from no earlier than the late 19th century. It was and is a reactionary movement.

  12. Paul no one I out to “eliminate” religion anymore then asking that there be sensible regulations on guns means people want to take away your guns.
    What we don’t want is a theology. Read what Huckabee as an example writes on his FB page and what his followers say. America is going down the tubes. We need to have Jesus be in the -forefront of anything in this country. It is because we don’t, those in power don’t “love Jesus” that America is going down the tubes. Bring back religion and specifically Christianity and America will be what it onoce was. They forget it was never a theology. We giht the theocracies like Iran, Iraq, etc and then way too many here think it would be fine and perfect for this country to have a religion,and a specific form of that religion

  13. Paul I don’t know if you attended Wright’s church and heard him speak or just listened to what was put on you tube. My former minister Knew him and attended the church. What was said about him was in correct. The tantrum, G-d America I think it was was taken out of context. It was not a condemnation of the county.

    1. leejcaroll – Wright is part of Black Liberation Theology. Wright made Oprah so uncomfortable that she left the church and found another. Obama stayed.

  14. Eliot:

    You are right. Any company has the right to decide that it needs every employee to be able to communicate clearly in English.

    For some businesses, being bilingual is a boon, and their policies would reflect that. For others, failure to be fluent in English can be a safety hazard, or simply the source of miscommunications and failure to follow instructions. Or it can be a customer service issue when people cannot communicate with customers.

    In the construction industry, it’s common to encounter workers who don’t speak English. I’ve heard so many stories where homeowners give instructions to a worker, who says, “No problem.” But that’s about all the English he knows, “No problem.” So the job doesn’t get done to the owner’s satisfaction. Or the painter tries to tell the tile guy not to set the tile because he’s going to paint in that area and there will be overspray. “No problem.” And then they go ahead and set the tile. Or they tell people to clear out of an area because they’re lifting something heavy with a crane, but people don’t comply because they don’t understand the instruction. I have friends and family in the construction industry, and it is beyond frustrating when people on site cannot speak fluent English. I recall one man fell off a roof to his death because he didn’t understand the instruction on how and when to use a safety harness.

    1. Appleton, neither of those links address my question, that is “what is intellectual, scientific, and tolerant of your alternative?”

      Do you direct any criticism to that segment of the left that is out to exterminate all religion in whatever form, some ruminating loudly in this blog, replace it with their own brand of indoctrination?

      In most communities, even small ones, there are as many as 20 different churches and religions. It’s always been this way. So far none has taken over the government. What is your fear?

      I suspect your fear lies less with religion, more with losing gains made by leftists who’ve overrun our country, reduced our middle class to little more than slaves, infiltrated government at every level, replaced every public employee with one of its own — all for no other purpose but to provide tens of millions of lifetime jobs and pensions, on the backs of taxpayers, families, and children.

      I think Jack London’s Wolf Larson said it best, more appropriate for today than ever:

      “I believe that life is a mess.., It is like yeast, a ferment, a thing that moves and may move for a minute, an hour, a year, or a hundred years, but that in the end will cease to move. The big eat the little that they may continue to move, the strong eat the weak that they may retain their strength. The lucky eat the most and move the longest, that is all.”

      And that was more than 100 years ago.

      1. samantha – I think that Mike is somewhat unnerved that the Supreme Court is controlled by Catholics and Jews.

        1. Schulte, I’m rather shocked by how many people are incensed by the benign Hobby Lobby decision. I can’t imagine what they will do after voters take back the country, make tax cuts, hand them all their butts on a platter, corporations too, force them to actually earn their way rather than freeloading on middle-class America, families and children.

  15. Paul C. Schulte:

    LOL. Now that I have unsnagged your comment, I will respond to it.

    1. The defense of religions and religious doctrine is primarily the province of apologists and theologians. My main interest is in defending freedom of religion as a constitutional principle.

    2. The fact that a particular viewpoint is grounded in religious belief does not exempt it from criticism. I do not defend young earth creationism, for example, because it is demonstrably false scientifically and because it is demonstrably absurd theologically. I criticize Christian fundamentalism because of its dominionist pretensions, anti-pluralist views and its adherence to what I believe are the false teachings of prosperity theology. I criticize Islamic fundamentalism as well, and for obvious reasons.

    3. Your take on liberation theology is simply wrong. Its roots are firmly planted in traditional Catholic teaching on social justice, including the Catholic notion of the preferential option for the poor. The suggestion that it is related to Soviet communism is silly. If you are interested in the topic and its history, you can begin with the writings of Pope Leo XIII, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, the work of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement in this country, and the life of Archbishop Helder Camara of Brazil. The suppression of the liberation theology movement in South America was largely a response to its criticisms of the alignment of the Church’s hierarchy with right-wing dictatorships in those countries, criticisms which were historically justified. I believe we have reason to hope that the current pope, a Jesuit with a solid understanding of poverty, will gradually re-invigorate the social justice themes at the core of liberation theology.

    4. The suggestions that President Obama is a “Marxist,” and Hillary Clinton a “Leninist” make no sense to me at all. You’ll have to educate me further on those claims.

    1. Mike – let me respond to your comments.
      1. The defense of religion, like any Constitutional right, should be defended by everyone. I do not have to agree with the religion to defend its right to exist in peace.

      2. You can criticize a point of view of a particular religion without attacking the religion itself.

      3. My take on Liberation Theology is the Black Liberation Theology that Barack Obama and his wife attended for many years. It has a Marxist base and was started during the Communist infiltration of the Civil Rights Movement.

      4. You cannot spend all those years listening to Rev. Wright spout Marxist theology and not have some of it dribble in. Still, Obama comes from good Marxist stock, the reason he threw his mom under the bus was because she was a good radical and he wanted to distance himself for his political career. He was raised by Marxists and mentored by Marxists.

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