EEOC Reaches Settlement In "English-Only" Policy Case

July 21, 2003 ( - The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reached a settlement with Colorado Central Station Casino, Inc. (CCSC) in connection with a national origin discrimination suit.

The $1.5-million settlement comes on behalf of a class of Hispanic employees of the housekeeping department who were verbally harassed and subjected to unlawful English-only rules. In addition to the monetary relief, CSSC will also notify all of its employees that the company has no blanket English-only policy and provide training to ensure that discrimination does not occur, according to a news release.

The suit was filed by EEOC in March 2001 in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, on the behalf of a class of Hispanic workers at CSSC, after an EEOC investigation reveled the possible discrimination. According to the EEOC, in 1998, the Human Resources Director instructed the Chief of Engineering, the Housekeeping Manager, and other housekeeping supervisors to implement a blanket English-only language policy in the housekeeping department and to discipline any housekeeping employee who violated the policy.

In adopting the blanket language policy, the company said it was necessary for “safety reasons” after a non-Spanish-speaking employee thought that other employees were talking about her in Spanish. Pursuant to the policy, management told the housekeeping staff that English was the official language of the casino and that Spanish could no longer be spoken and chastised employees for speaking Spanish at any time, saying, “English-English-English,” or “English-only.” This resulted in the Hispanic employees being embarrassed and suffering emotional distress, the EEOC’s suit claims.

The EEOC viewed such actions as unlawful based on the agency’s Guidelines on Discrimination Because of National Origin (Part 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1606.1). This section lays out that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at any time may have an adverse impact on individuals whose primary language is not English. Therefore, these rules may violate Title VII on the basis of national origin.