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EEOC Challenges Spanish Only Policy

For many years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has challenged workplace policies that encourage “English only.” Such policies limit employee communications to English, sometimes even in personal conversations between employees. It has been the EEOC’s position that such policies are a form of national origin discrimination.

Champion Fiberglass in Texas purportedly has a Spanish only policy. According to Freddie Foster, an African-American, he could not even get an application from Champion because he did not speak Spanish. He saw the “Help Wanted” sign in the window but he was refused when he went in to inquire about it. In the lawsuit, the EEOC asserted that Champion rejected labor applicants who were not Hispanic and who did not speak English. The workforce at the company reflected this assertion as non- Hispanic workers are underrepresented. The EEOC has alleged that the workforce limitation was not consistent with business necessity.

In its lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking an injunction to prevent Champion from pursuing its discriminatory practices as well as seeking back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages on behalf of a prospective class of non-Hispanic workers. As of this time, the Company has yet to respond to the lawsuit. Last year, the EEOC settled a similar case for $1 million against another Texas company. Similarly in that case, new employees were recruited as friends and family of current Hispanic workers thereby making it easier to keep the workforce limited to Spanish speakers.