English Only Laws May Constitute National Origin Discrimination

Many times discrimination is blatant. Other times a policy may not appear to be discriminatory on its face, but on closer examination the effect is to discriminate against a certain group. Either instance may lead to a successful discrimination case. Consulting with a knowledgeable Georgia national origin discrimination attorney is important if you believe you have suffered any type of employment discrimination.

In what is reported as the largest settlement ever for a workplace language discrimination claim, a regional hospital in California’s Central Valley agreed to pay $975,000 to settle gender discrimination claims filed by nearly 70 Filipino American employees.

National origin discrimination means treating someone less favorably because he or she is from a particular place, because of his or her ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that he or she has a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also means treating someone less favorably at work because of marriage or other association with someone of a particular nationality.

National origin discrimination can manifest itself in a number of ways–accent discrimination, English fluency and English-only rules, and ethnic slurs are just some of the forms that national origin discrimination can take. Whatever the basis of the discrimination, your employer may not take adverse action against you because of your national origin. This also includes harassment, such as name-calling or abuse because of your national origin. Also, like the other anti-discrimination laws, the national origin discrimination rules also prohibit retaliation against you for complaining about national origin discrimination or for participating in someone else’s national origin discrimination case.

According to the California national origin discrimination lawsuit, EEOC v. Central Calif. Found. for Health, a Delano area hospital “selectively enforced” an “English-only” language policy. Although California patients’ rights statutes provide that medical facilities communicate with patients in a language they understand too often this leads to “English-only” work rules. However in states with a diverse population such as California, English may not be appropriate. Additionally it may be difficult for employers to write workplace language policies in a way that don’t violate the anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or similar state employment laws.

In this instance, the Medical Center singled out Filipino American employees and prohibited them from speaking Tagalog or other Filipino languages anywhere in the hospital. This included public areas such as the hallways, cafeteria and break rooms. However, this rule wasn’t enforced against other bilingual staff.

Further, when the Filipinos did speak in English, they were ridiculed for their accents and humiliated in front of the other workers.

A class action discrimination lawsuit was filed based on these actions. According to EEOC and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which intervened on behalf of some 41 plaintiffs, the $975,000 penalty would represent the largest settlement ever for a workplace language discrimination case on the West Coast, and the largest settlement of a language discrimination case anywhere in the U.S. healthcare industry.

For more information or if you have believe you have been discriminated against based on your national origin, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.