Guest views: Bias police can leave you speechless
Perhaps there is just not enough discrimination to occupy federal bureaucrats. How else to explain the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit filed last month against Wisconsin Plastics for firing employees who were unable to speak English?
The case came to light when 11 Hmong and Hispanic workers at the Green Bay plastic and metal manufacturer complained to the EEOC after their dismissal in fall 2012.
“Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on national origin, which includes the linguistic characteristics of a national origin group,” the EEOC claimed in a press release.
“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,” EEOC regional attorney John C. Hendrickson lectured. “But superficial appearances are not fooling anyone.”
The EEOC is suing for the former employees’ lost wages and punitive damages that could reportedly be up to $200,000 per employee, for a maximum of $2.2 million.
The EEOC’s charges are “false and completely without merit,” Wisconsin Plastics contended in a statement. The company noted that at the time the employees were laid off, 91 percent of its nearly 300 employees were racial and ethnic minorities.
The EEOC’s accusations are even more ironic and unlikely given the company’s history of trying to eliminate language barriers with its employees. As reported by Plastics News, Wisconsin Plastics was honored by a trade group in 2003 for its management’s attempts to learn the Southeast Asian Hmong language to improve communication with employees.
The EEOC has gotten even more aggressive—and creative—in recent years. “We’ve seen some decisions that are a kind of radical that we haven’t seen in the past, under Republican or Democratic administrations,” Judicial Watch blog editor Irene Garcia told CNS News. Other EEOC cases have alleged that conducting background checks discriminates against blacks and prohibitions on employee head coverings discriminate against Muslim women who wear hijab headscarves.
While one does wonder how employees with little to no English skills were hired in the first place, it hardly seems unreasonable to fire employees who are unable to communicate effectively with their supervisors. The EEOC’s actions are just another example of the government’s lack of respect for the freedom of contract and the troubling trend of bureaucratic overreach that is inexorable whenever government grows too big and powerful.
—The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)