Monday, September 19, 2005
EEOC Sues Nursing Home Over English-Only Rule
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the operator of a Torrance nursing home Friday, saying it discriminated against Hispanic workers by prohibiting them from speaking Spanish on the job.
In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the commission said that Royalwood Care Center violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The English-only rule, the complaint alleges, was unsupported by business necessity and thus constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin, particularly because it was not applied to employees who spoke languages other foreign language.
The EEOC alleges that one employee, a non-English-speaker, was fired for speaking Spanish and that other employees were also disciplined for speaking the language. The commission asked the court to order reinstatement with back pay for the fired employee and to award compensatory and punitive damages to all of the disciplined workers.
The commission said it exhausted reasonable efforts at settlement before filing suit, as required by the statute.
District Director Olophius Perry, the highest-ranking EEOC official in Los Angeles, said in a statement:
“While there may be situations where an employer can legitimately maintain and enforce English-only policies in the workplace without running afoul of the laws against discrimination, we believe this is not one of them. We concluded that Royalwood overreached with its English-only policy and, what’s more, enforced it only against Hispanic employees.”
A 1993 Ninth Circuit decision held that a company could enforce an English-only rule, without a showing of business necessity, as long as the affected employees were bilingual and thus could actually comply. The EEOC unsuccessfully urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision.
A spokesperson for Royalwood said the nursing home’s parent company would be issuing a statement on the case, but it had not done so as of late Friday.
The case, which was assigned to U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins, is No. CV 05-6795.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company