U.S. Workplace English Rules Discriminatory, Foreign Language Demands Aren’t
DECEMBER 01, 2016
Requiring employees in the United States to speak a foreign language is not discriminatory but forcing them to speak English violates federal law under a sweeping order issued by the Obama administration to crack down on “national origin discrimination” in the workplace. The government’s new enforcement guidelines state that bilingual requirements don’t meet discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act but English-only rules do because they’re restrictive language policies.
The administration asserts that the new rules, which cover a broad range of scenarios that could get employers in trouble, were created because the American workforce is “increasingly ethnically diverse.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, made them public a few days ago. “The increased cultural diversity of today’s workplaces presents new and evolving issues with respect to Title VII’s protection against national origin discrimination,” the agency writes in the lengthy document. “This enforcement guidance will assist EEOC staff in their investigation of national origin discrimination charges and provide information for applicants, employees, and employers to understand their respective rights and responsibilities under Title VII.”
Two years ago, the administration laid the foundation for the new measures by suing a private American business for discriminating against Hispanic and Asian employees because they didn’t speak English on the job. The case involved a Green Bay Wisconsin metal and plastic manufacturer that fired a group of Hmong and Hispanic workers over their English skills. Forcing employees to speak English in the U.S. violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC claimed in its lawsuit. That’s because the Civil Rights Act protects employees from discrimination based on national origin, which includes the linguistic characteristics of a national origin group. Therefore, the EEOC argued, foreigners have the right to speak their native language even during work hours at an American company that requires English.
Now the agency has created official federal rules to support this absurd theory as well as other innovative discrimination categories, including “multiple protected bases.” This is a seldom recognized but potent Molotov cocktail of prejudice based on race, color and religion. As an example, the new rules mention discrimination against Middle Easterners perceived to “follow particular religious practices.” Among the amusing hypotheticals embedded in the rules is an Egyptian named Thomas who alleges he was harassed by his coworkers about his Arab ethnicity and Islam. “Thomas’ charge should assert national origin, race and religious discrimination,” the EEOC writes, referring to its new “multiple protected bases” category. The agency reassures that it will protect Middle Easterners, stating that “Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on the perception that someone is from the Middle East or is of Arab ethnicity, regardless of how she identifies herself or whether she is, in fact, from one or more Middle Eastern countries or ethnically Arab.”
Employers that use Social Security requirements to screen applicants are warned that they may be charged with discrimination because it disproportionately eliminates individuals of a certain national origin and has a disparate impact based on national origin. That makes Social Security screens “unlawful under Title VII unless the employer establishes that the policy or practice is job related and consistent with business necessity,” the EEOC rules say. Here’s another good one involving prejudice in hiring: “Reliance on word-of-mouth recruiting may magnify existing ethnic, racial or religious homogeneity in a workplace and result in the exclusion of qualified applicants from different national origin groups,” the EEOC rules state. That would constitute a violation of federal law, the EEOC points out, because the employer’s actions have a discriminating effect based on national origin.
Under Obama the EEOC has strong-armed private businesses and government agencies into adopting the administration’s leftist agenda and inflated standards of political correctness. Last fiscal year the agency celebrated getting a record $525 million in settlements for reported victims of discrimination in both private and public sector jobs. One of the EEOC’s biggest cases involved a national clothing retailer that specializes in hip casual wear for youngsters and refused to change a rule banning head covers for employees. The agency sued the company for religious discrimination because it wouldn’t allow a Muslim woman to wear a hijab to work. In another victory, a national retailer was forced to pay $2.5 million to black job candidates that had been screened with criminal background checks. The EEOC asserts background checks have a disparate impact on African Americans and the administration has bullied companies into eliminating them.
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