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. Appleton said: “And I still remember the stories my mother told me of my relatives in Dayton, Ohio who spoke German at
    home during the ’30s and who admired what Hitler was
    doing to rebuild the country after the humiliation of World War I.”

    Did any of those stories include the drone of hate speech against Jews and others considered dissidents and unsupporting of Germany’s policies?

    When one analyzes the hate speech in Germany during the 30s & 40s, it’s not difficult to see the similarities with hate speech today against Christians, pro-life, and those who believe in borders, language, and culture. There are still alive some German conscientious objectors from the Nazi era, reassigned to other duties because they simply could not or refused to have anything to do with the Holocaust. They will tell you that they never had believed that hate speech would evolve into extermination of Jews and many other groups of people. Some of the hate speech in this blog against Christians and religion in general, scares the hell out of me.

  2. One can not appreciate this issue fully unless you have a cell phone company like mine, where its call center employees are all overseas. They can all speak English, only problem, I can’t understand any of them. I have to tell them all to slow down, talk slower, then I may be able to get 9 out of 10 of the words. Usually, it’s too frustrating, so I elevate the call to a supervisor. That’s no improvement, because he or she is also offshore. So I elevate the call again, this time getting a manager in the u.s, one who actually speaks English that I can fully understand. It’s not just cell phone companies that employ offshore call centers. Go out and buy a tech toy, then call their tech support. Most times I end up with someone in China, whom I cannot understand, and they cannot understand me. I don’t think there is anything that produces as much cortisol as having a conversation with someone that you cannot understand or they cannot understand you. I think this employer in Wisconsin is trying to rectify some of this by demanding fluency in English for his employees.

  3. LC in TX: “I want to know if the Obama administration is using the peoples money to sue anything and anybody that does not agree with the administration?”

    No LC, he’s paying for this one out of his own pocket. His wife is very upset. I understand the weather doesn’t agree with him in Washington so far this summer, but no word on whether he intends to sue or not.

  4. I have done a fair amount of traveling in countries where English is not the predominant language. I found the international signs to be very helpful and there always seemed to be someone who understood enough English that I could be understood. They spoke their language, slowly and succinctly, I did the same. There were no philosophical discussions, but there was basic understanding. In the workplace, I was with people who were multi-lingual, English being one of their languages.

    I do my banking at a credit union where most of the tellers are bi-lingual. It’s no surprise that a large number of the members are most comfortable speaking Spanish. The phones are usually answered by someone who is bi-lingual so you don’t have to press a number for the language you want.

    It would seem that much of the problem could be alleviated by opening up some of the higher paying jobs to one of those whose first language is what many of the workers speak, but who is also fluent in English. Let’s see, plastics factory, lots of line work, bi-lingual forepersons.

  5. Mike A:

    “Anyone familiar with the history of this country is aware of the periodic waves of nativism that infect the body politic. We are living in such a time today.”


  6. When I was in grade school in southeastern New Mexico, most of my friends were Mexican-Americans. They spoke both English and Spanish, but many of them had parents and grandparents who spoke little, if any, English. I attended high school in El Paso, a truly bilingual, bicultural city. Many of my friends there spoke a sort of border Spanish that included many English words with Spanish endings.

    When I lived in Austin, I learned of the Wends, a Slavic people from an area in Germany known as Lusatia, who had settled in the hill country of east Texas during the great German migration in the 1840s. As of 1970 there was still a Wendish language newspaper in publication.

    I was introduced to Cajun culture when I lived for a time in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and was repeatedly embarrassed by my inability to understand the Acadian version of English spoken there.

    When I moved to Massachusetts, I encountered for the first time an entire menu of ethnicity and cultural variation: communities of Irish, Italians, Poles, Lithuanians and French Canadians, churches where services in the 1960s were still conducted in Polish and French.

    And I still remember the stories my mother told me of my relatives in Dayton, Ohio who spoke German at home during the ’30s and who admired what Hitler was doing to rebuild the country after the humiliation of World War I.

    The point of this mini-litany is that the abandonment of one’s language and culture is not, and never has been, a condition of admission to the United States. Were that the case, we’d still be waiting completion of the trans-continental railroad.

    Are there jobs that require solid English speaking skills? Of course there are. But that is not what the EEOC rules seek to address, Anyone familiar with the history of this country is aware of the periodic waves of nativism that infect the body politic. We are living in such a time today. The issue here is not balkanization. Nor is it immigration policy. The only balkanization I fear is the balkanization of intolerance, and many of the comments on this thread fairly reek of it.

  7. What if we started “illegally immigrating” conservatives and we deluged America with conservative voters. At some point in that process, we could repeal “Civil Rights” (whatever those are), Obamacare, all forms of redistribution, laws regarding governmental control of free enterprise and industry, affirmative action, the Fed and its manipulation of the “currency as a utility” and interest rates etc., etc.

    Geez, we could actually repeal America back to the Preamble, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    It will take some time and resolve, however. Didn’t it take 13 years to repeal the nonsense Prohibition?

  8. Karen S


    I don’t think you understand the term “backtrack.”

    … I am for legal immigration but against illegal immigration.

    I suggest that you take note that what is legal and what is not is like the desert sands.

    They change every time the wind blows.

    Your real position is that you want only republicans to be able to immigrate.

    I understand backtrack well, especially a failed one like your: “Democrats want illegal aliens to have a path to citizenship because they tend to vote Democratic…”

    To which I did not disagree, commenting:

    That is because the words written on the Statue of Liberty were written by Democrats:

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    As it turns out, you screwed the pooch and are now trying to clean up with a false notion of what is in writing on this thread.

    Chalk it up as a loss and spin on to a new day’s thread.

    You will have much less backtracking to do that way.

    1. Dredd –

      That is because the words written on the Statue of Liberty were written by Democrats:

      You want to back this up? My memory is that it was written by a single woman and is part of a larger poem.

  9. Dredd:

    I don’t think you understand the term “backtrack.”

    Because every single solitary time I’ve discussed illegal immigration, I have included my position that I am for legal immigration but against illegal immigration.

    You are making false statements about my position because you fail to comprehend my posts.

    Repeating false statements does not make them true. So you can call me “anti-American” or “racist” or any other silly name you choose. It merely illustrates poor reading comprehension.

    If you are for open borders, then I invite you to rent one of those ranches on the US side of the border where drug cartel violence is so common people cannot stir out of doors without being armed. Good luck to you. On the bright side, I suppose you would get an excellent deal on the rent, as the homes are unsellable. And when you start having a problem at some point with border security, perhaps after your car’s been stolen for the 8th time in a year, then people like you will claim you’re racist.

  10. Paul C. Schulte

    Dredd – it is the mantra of the enlightened.
    Yeah, lights on nobody home.

  11. Paul C. Schulte

    Dredd – it is a fact, not an opinion.
    Romper Room arguments again today eh?

    Have you tried “I am rubber and you are glue, whatever you say to me bounces off and sticks on you.”

  12. Karen S


    I, and others, have stated repeatedly that we are FOR LEGAL immigration and against ILLEGAL immigration.

    So your racist rant and name calling makes zero sense and simply proclaims that you do not comprehend our position.
    No, your anti-American viewpoint which you tried but failed to backtrack is why I called you out.

    Denial is your position.

    1. Dredd – your ad hominem attack on Karen S. is typical of your comment style. A lot of us have answered you on illegal immigration before however, it never sinks in.

  13. Hell, I had an econ prof from Philly I couldn’t understand. It took me a week to figure out his “Dowers” meant “Dollars.” Folks from Philly and Asia have problems w/ “L’s.”

  14. Jim – That is SO TRUE that college professors apparently are not required to speak fluent English.

    My first class at a university was calculus. The professor had an impenetrable Eastern European accent, and his handwriting on the board was illegible. We all just sat there, stunned and getting more worried by the day. Luckily, that weekend I was able to go to my parents’ home and get my high school calculus notes. I would just strain at the board until I could make out an equation, or catch a few words, and then ignore him the rest of the class and review my high school notes, or read the textbook.

    University professors appear to be hired based on what they publish, not on their teaching skills. And some of them were horrible teachers.

  15. Dredd:

    I, and others, have stated repeatedly that we are FOR LEGAL immigration and against ILLEGAL immigration.

    So your racist rant and name calling makes zero sense and simply proclaims that you do not comprehend our position.

  16. Bonnie:

    That was so sad the discouragement of native languages, both here and Australia.

    However, these business requirements have nothing whatsoever to do with people’s private lives. They can speak whatever languages they want outside of work. But in the workplace, they should speak fluent English.

  17. Lee:

    The government posted on a federal business opportunity website requesting transportation services for an estimated 65,000 unaccompanied children Jan 2014.

    Here is the actual job posting from the government website:



    The reason why the children are specifically unaccompanied by their parents is because of policies like the Dream Act, and that 85% of unaccompanied children stay in the US. Our policies specifically encourage parents to send their kids over with strangers like coyotes, where, tragically, many don’t make it. They are murdered, sexually assaulted, lost, starve, etc. And it is our policies that induce parents to do it. The numbers of unaccompanied kids is more than double what it was last year, which was a lot more than the year before that. It is also our polices that tempt heavily pregnant women to risk desert crossings, because if their children are born here they are citizens, and the moms cannot be deported. And many of those women die or give birth in the desert.

    Cause and effect.

    And let’s talk about that horrific drug cartel violence. The border violence with Mexico is so awful that there are signs on US land warning citizens away because it is unsafe. We are such a weak, incompetent country that we cannot even defend our own borders from drug cartels, so what are we doing giving foreign aid, and dragging out wars that should have ended long ago? How many illegal aliens belong to those violent drug cartels? What about the surge in Mexican gangs that are the scourge of many of our cities now? The sex trafficking now so common in the US?

    I vehemently oppose illegal immigration, but support legal immigration.

    I believe we need to make it impossible for people to get across our borders illegally, or obtain a job if they do make it. And we need to streamline the bloated, inefficient legal immigration process.

    Any argument about reasons to immigrate are reasons for LEGAL immigration, not reasons why we should have completely open borders and unlimited ILLEGAL immigration.

    Can you imagine for a moment what would happen if we abandoned all immigration requirements? No border. No rules. Just come here and we’ll give you a full safety net. Our population would increase by a billion people every year until our resources collapsed. It would include the very people we would want to exclude – such as drug cartels, gangs, criminals, murderers, and human rights abusers. And they would become the majority.

    As a country, we have a right to set standards for whom we will allow to immigrate, such as excluding violent criminals. In addition, we have a duty to our citizens to determine the quantity of immigrants that we can absorb without straining our resources or the economy. We should limit immigrants to good, hardworking people with no criminal history in numbers that we can handle. And that will go far towards improving our economy. In places like CA and AZ, illegal immigrants crush our resources in some saturated areas. Maybe bussing illegals around the country will show the rest of the US what we’re going through here.

    It’s like we’re playing games. We have immigration rules and border patrol, but if illegal aliens successfully evade capture until they set a toe on our side of the border, we give them a free bus ride anywhere they want to go in the US and only elicit a promise to return for a hearing that is broken 99% of the time. And there are flyers all over Mexico about how to game the system.

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