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. Help Help Help The Vortex of Doom has eaten my comment. 🙁

  2. Karen S.:

    I don’t know how old you are, but I find your comments concerning criticism of Christians to be a tad overwrought. I grew up in the ’50s and’60s, a period in which the subjects of religious prejudice in this country were predominately Jews and Catholics. Indeed, I remember meeting kids in Huntsville, Alabama in 1963 who told me that they had been raised to believe that Catholics are not Christians, an example of stupefying ignorance that I still find astonishing. And some of the things I heard and read during the 1960 presidential election were truly disgusting.

    In those days, however, political power was firmly in the control of white males of mainline Protestant denominations who believed in separation of church and state and who considered it unseemly at best to introduce their religious views into public policy debates.

    That culture changed with the resurgence of religious fundamentalism, the growth of evangelical megachurches and the formation of the Moral Majority and related groups expressly committed to a legislative agenda founded upon conservative Christian theology. When the Christian right became politically aggressive beginning in the 1980s, it made religious beliefs a legitimate topic for debate and Bible-based legislative proposals appropriate targets for criticism.

    The argument that opposition to faith-based legislation is an assault on Christians is intellectually lazy and theologically arrogant. It is intellectually lazy because Christianity is not a religion; it is a collection of hundreds of distinct sects whose only common denominator is a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. It is theologically arrogant because it assumes that the only true “Christians” are those who subscribe to a particular brand of religious belief characterized by a doctrinal insistence on biblical inerrancy, Calvinist economic theory and American exceptionalism.

    It is not Christianity that is under attack. My criticisms, and the criticisms of other thoughtful Christians, have always been directed at that segment of the Christian right that seeks to destroy separation of church and state as a principle of governance and to theocratize social, cultural and political systems in furtherance of a doctrine of dominionism that is anti-intellectual, anti-science and intolerant of religious pluralism. I will continue to criticize those efforts.

    1. Mike – there has been a war on Christianity and Judaism going on for a long time. Part of this has to do with the influence of operatives from the left using material from the Soviet Union and now Russia. ‘Liberation Theology’ is a branch of the Soviet Union’s attempt to destroy the United States. Religious fundamentalism has always been around. And Churchs’ have been politically active long before the 1960s.
      What we have today is a concerted effort by the left to destroy organized religion and replace it with the religion of the left, Marxism. We already have our high priest of the new religion, Barack Obama. And I think the problems between Obama and Clinton are doctrinal. Obama is a Marxist, Hillary is a Leninist. Obama cannot allow Clinton to replace him. She will override 80% of his executive orders. Warren is more of a Marxist, so he could get behind her. Biden is an idiot without a theological center, so he is a non-starter. He is only there to keep Obama from being impeached.
      You can contend you are a thoughtful Christian, but Mike, I have not seen that side of you. Thoughtful Christians (whoever or whatever they are) would spend more time defending their religion and other religions against attack.
      I am a committed agnostic, but I spend more time defending religions than you do.

    2. Appleton, regarding your claim of “a doctrine of dominionism that is anti-intellectual, anti-science and intolerant of religious pluralism,” what are you basing your broad brush stroke on? Specifically, what is intellectual, scientific, and tolerant of your alternative?

  3. A company should be able to clearly communicate with ANY employee regardless of their job, in the English language.

    This is stupid. There is no way anyone can defend this.

    Btw any job CAN be dangerous. ” HEY YOU DONT MIX THAT AMMONIA WITH THAT BLEACH!” “hey watch out for that falling object!”

    I hate Progressives.

  4. Karen S, you make some excellent points. All too often it is hard for us to see the forest from the trees. Maybe some of the militant leftists who comment here will take notice.

    As for Jews being an easy target in Germany, Hitler believed the Jews were responsible for Germany losing World War 1. At first, of course, Germany was winning the war, but that dramatically changed in a heartbeat, once Jewish world bankers convinced the US to join Britain in WW-I against Germany. In the end, world bankers, including Jewish bankers, bought up Germany for pennies on the dollar. From Hitler’s point of view, everything was about payback.

    When it comes to the elite’s fire sales, we’ve had them right here at home, lots of times. The S&L debacle, after the Tax Reform Act of 1986 devalued commercial real estate, was a legal mechanism for corporations to buy real estate for pennies on the dollar. The more recent real estate bubble was a mechanism for transferring ungodly amounts of wealth to Wall Street. Obama’s runaway spending is a mechanism to continue this trend, bankrupting the entire middle class in the process.

    From the bankers of World War 1, to Hitler, to the geniuses behind the Great Society, the S&L debacle, the real estate bubble — the perps responsible are all psychopaths, not unlike french aristocrats during the french revolution, who believe anyone who works and earns his own way is a renewable resource, fair play to exploit from cradle to grave. The only people who have truly benefit during these past 100 years are stockholders. Everyone else has just been on a treadmill.

  5. If a casino requires only English be spoken during the play of a hand, would it be considered legal?

  6. Those many decades ago, did the government tax you to publish all materials in foreign languages and provide interpreters?

    Is it the constitutional burden of the taxpayer to facilitate a forefinger’s existence in America?

    Is it incumbent on legal immigrants to know the language of the country they’re in or should that country change its language to serve the immigrant? Is it that country’s burden to facilitate the immigrant’s move in any aspect?

    “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Even this anti-American, incompetent liberal understood some basic concepts of citizenship.

    In a America you’re free to speak however you want but you’re not free to use other people’s money to do it.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

  7. Appleton, I didn’t miss the point about your relatives admiring hitler, but I’ve always been fascinated with World War II, owing to ancestors serving, never missing an opportunity to cull more anecdotal history, most of which has never made it into a single history book. That is why I wondered if your mother had passed along any hate speech she knew of in Germany. Persecution in Nazi Germany was no secret around the world. It was well known here, however, there was a conspiracy of silence that helped enable the Holocaust. There was lots of US opposition to war, fueled by organizations like the American Firsters, but that didn’t mean everyone voiced their opinions out loud, especially Germans in the US, many of whom forbade their children from speaking German, as a way to disassociate themselves from the horrors in Germany and avoid being victims of hate speech in the US, during both World War 1 and World War II. “Gentle People” by Joanita Cant is a profound look into US sanctioned persecutrion and torture of a group of Germans after world war 1, some of whom ended up in Alcatraz and died after having been starved, beaten, and chained to walls, others were seized by mobs, others deprived of property, which was sold and the proceeds used to buy Liberty Bonds.

    Government is only on your side to the extent that you support its policies. Short of that, you’re on your own.

    So, ya, considering how people lose their mind when they join the crowd, some of the leftist hate towards christians and others is frightening. If you do not tow the PC line, in a heartbeat you can’t lose your job, reputation, property and sometimes even your life. But if you are a protected species, well, you get a free pass.

  8. samantha:

    You missed the point of my comment, but, for what it’s worth, my mother despised Hitler and the Nazis. She was a registered nurse and spent World War II as an Army lieutenant caring for wounded American soldiers in a military evacuee hospital. I believe that she understood something about ethnic and religious hatred, but thanks for asking.

  9. When I was running a BurgerKing for 7 years as store manager back in my 20’s I ran into language barriers, as much of the work crew were from Asian and Hispanic countries here trying to make a living. So, how did I communicate with a mixed crew with mixed languages? I learned how to speak their language. This way it provided me a few resources of continuity and open communication. I could understand what their casual conversations were about and I could talk and engage them on a equal basis, instead if one of superiority where I demand they only speak my language.

    My biggest joke to them was, “I don’t understand what you’re saying about me.” Or, “I hope that wasn’t about me.”

  10. samantha:

    My grandmother was daughter of German immigrants, and also spoke fluent German with her family. (When she cursed, it was in German, too, apparently.)

    She died before I was born, but my father told me she was anything but proud of Hitler. She was appalled at what was happening in the Old Country, and couldn’t believe how evil such a beautiful country was becoming. She said the Jews were easy targets to use as scapegoats because many kept themselves apart from the main population. It was an “us and them” mentality. When a madman took over, they were easy targets, and the hate speech evolved so gradually into evil actions that the whole country was swept up way past the point where it could have easily been stopped.

    Now let’s look at what’s happening today in the US. Hatred or derision of Christians is widespread among Liberals and the media. 100% of the time that Islamic extremists murder innocent people, the Apologists obediently claim that Christians are just as bad. And now people are getting fired or sued for following their religious beliefs, in a land founded on religious freedom. And we have the federal government suing Hobby Lobby and nuns for refusing to follow Obamacare.

    The same is true of fiscal conservatives. If anyone identifies themselves as anything other than a Liberal, there is often instant, vile vitriolic attacks against them, claiming they are racists, stupid, etc. And now we have discovered that our federal government used the IRS to punish conservative groups by denying them 501c(3) status, auditing them. In some cases, multiple government agencies were brought to bear, such as when True the Vote was audited, their tax exempt request was delayed for years until the election was over, and the ATF paid them a visit. And Democratic Rep Cummings declared on national television that their organization was racist, for no other reason than the claim that one should identify oneself to vote, just the same as we do at the bank, the DMV, to cash a check, and any other place where it is important to verify one’s identity.

    So we have a public desensitized to hate speech against fiscal conservatives and Christians. We have a federal government that sues and engages in hate speech against Christians and fiscal conservatives. It also illegally used government agencies to punish them and covered up their crime.

    Gee, this should go well, right?

  11. The Statue of Liberty was originally inspired by the Civil War which freed the slaves, a mainly Republican movement.

    There was great difficulty raising the funds for the American portion of the statue, her pedestal. As part of the fundraising efforts, Emma Lazarus wrote and donated her poem “The New Colossus”. It was forgotten for a while, and was only added as a plaque to the statue in 1903. At that point, the statue became thought of as a beacon watching over immigrants arriving in America. She was one of the earliest voices of Zionism, urging for a Jewish homeland in what would become Israel.

    Emma Lazarus was a Sephardic Jew who died in 1887. Although her ancestry is Portuguese, her family had been in America since Colonial times. I cannot find what her politics were, BECAUSE SHE DIED BEFORE WOMEN HAD THE RIGHT TO VOTE. So Dredd’s comment that her poem was written by Democrats makes, as usual, zero sense.

  12. Samantha, That would be politically/economically tenuous!! A cross rip between PC and outsourcing overseas.

  13. Paul – thanks.

    All Dredd can think of to do is make meritless ad hominem attacks as if he is witty and daring instead of just lost.

  14. Dredd:

    You really do not understand “backtrack” do you?

    Backtrack means that you make a statement that you later regret and try to take back, or explain away. I have never done that. My statement that Democrats want unlimited immigration because they tend to vote Democratic, and they ignore the costs of that immigration. How have I walked that statement back, in any way?

    Mike A – no one has stated that those many cultures and languages should be abandoned. Rather, that employees should speak fluent English in the workplace if a company requires it, regardless of what they speak at home. A restaurant in El Paso would not require English at all times in the workplace, because bilingual is an advantage in serving customers.

    What unifies all those beautiful enclaves of Cajun, Amish, Latino, etc? The English language. Without requiring English, you could travel through different cities and not be able to communicate with any businesses. It would be like traveling through India before Great Britain mandated the English language be learned – people who lived 100 miles away had zero means of communicating.

    A business has the right to require employees speak fluent English in the workplace. I have worked in a group where they would break into Mandarin during meetings, or trouble shooting in the lab. And it was tiresome and unprofessional because not all employees were included in such discussions. And there were endless miscommunications and failure to follow instructions when employees couldn’t speak English.

    To further illustrate where fluent English can be important, my class was once poisoned in lab at my university because the TA couldn’t speak English. We got out our lab books and got started, when one by one, we got sick and wobbled and dragged ourselves out into the hallway to puke. The TA suddenly had a Eureka moment and found the word he’d been trying to remember, “Fume hood!” He’d been turning around in circles muttering in Mandarin because he couldn’t think of the words.

  15. Dredd:

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

    That is a very foolish statement, and not based on anything I’ve said.

    I have repeatedly stated that I am for LEGAL immigration. I have also stated that recent immigrants tend to vote Democratic. So your assertion above is yet another false statement based on poor reading comprehension.

    Who cares what politics the artist had who carved the words on the Statue of Liberty? Democrats are not the only people to care about the poor or immigrants. In fact, historically, Democrats have opposed immigration because they supported unions, which opposed cheap immigrant labor. So, again, your statements have no basis on facts.

    Bettykath:

    The issue is not the availability of bilingual employees to serve customers of different languages. The difficulty is employees not being able to speak fluent English in the workplace. A business has the right to require its employees speak fluent English, or speak only English in the workplace.

    And tourist towns across the nation may have many individuals who speak English. It has an economic advantage. But is it a LAW that people need to speak many languages, or that there be signs in those languages? Or do businesses just offer them on their own? Historically, people in many countries spoke English because it is the international language of commerce. But that might change if China becomes more predominant. Were those signs you saw also in Chinese, Russian, and German? Or were you just lucky that you belonged to a country where the international language of commerce was spoken?

    I’ve been to countries where English was not commonly spoken. I could not imagine complaining that another country didn’t accommodate every single language of every single tourist. I brought my phrase book and made do.

    Personally, I’ve been very frustrated when I’ve called an overseas phone support tree, and struggled to explain to the representative what the problem was because he barely spoke any English. It was bad customer service. And it’s become so common that now it’s become a selling point for some companies to offer English-speaking phone support right here in the US.

    And yet, the Obama administration would sue companies for making a requirement of fluent English for their employees. What would the point be, then, in paying higher for a US phone support tree if the employees could still have bad English? Or what if a boss just wants to be able to communicate clearly with his employees? Don’t we always encourage recent immigrants to take English classes to help them get a job?

  16. Nick, will Obama go after companies refusing to use oversea call centers?

  17. Samantha, I see companies proudly advertising that their call centers are in the US. We have all experienced tortured conversations w/ Babu on the other line.

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