The EEOC just announced the commencement of a new national origin lawsuit against a Green Bay manufacturer for allegedly firing Hmong and Hispanic employees “based on 10-minute observations that marked them down for their English skills, even though those skills were not needed to perform their jobs.  All of those fired had received satisfactory ratings on their annual performance evaluations. …”

Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on national origin, as we know, and the EEOC says that this includes the linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.   “English only” as a rule or policy would fall within this Title VII prescription if not job-related, although we do not often see cases like this filed.

The EEOC, however, said that such a lingusitic rule often masks national origin discrimination:

“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.”