Employer’s Language Rule Dings Non-Hispanics, EEOC Claims

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By Kevin McGowan

Español si, inglés no! That’s the message a Texas fiberglass company is giving workers interested in laborer jobs, the EEOC alleges in a discrimination suit filed in federal court in Houston ( EEOC v. Champion Fiberglass, Inc. , S.D. Tex., No. 17-2226, lawsuit filed 7/20/17 ).

Champion Fiberglass has a Spanish-language requirement for its employees and largely relies on word-of-mouth referrals from its mostly Hispanic workforce to find new workers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a complaint filed July 20.

The results are “statistically significant” underrepresentation of non-Hispanic laborers in the company that amounts to race and national origin discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the agency said.

Company representatives weren’t immediately available for comment July 20.

The EEOC in the past has challenged the discriminatory effects of employers’ "English-only” policies that restrict workers born outside the U.S. from speaking their native languages on the job. But suing over the reverse, an alleged Spanish-only policy, is unusual for the commission.

The EEOC sued after receiving a discrimination charge from Freddie Foster, an African American worker, who said Champion refused to give him an application for an open laborer position because he doesn’t speak Spanish.

The agency seeks judicial relief for Foster and a “class of non-Hispanic applicants and job seekers” who were “adversely affected” by Champion’s alleged recruitment and hiring policies.

An EEOC attorney in Houston represents the commission. No attorney has yet entered an appearance for Champion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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