FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Claire Gonzales Wednesday, June 22, 1994 Reginald Welch (202) 663-4900 TDD: (202) 663-4494
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court announced June 20 it will not hear Garcia et al. v. Spun Steak Co. In doing so, the Court will let stand a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allows Spun Steak to prevent employees from speaking their native language at work. Only Justices Harry Blackmun and Sandra Day O'Connor voted to hear Garcia.
At the invitation of the Supreme Court, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Justice Department filed an amicus curiae brief on June 1, arguing that the Court should hear the case because of errors in the decision of the 9th Circuit. The appeals court reversed a district court's summary judgment holding that an English-only work rule, put in place by Spun Steak Co., had discriminatory impact on Hispanic employees, and that the rule was improper because the plaintiffs had proposed a number of less burdensome alternatives to the English-only rule. The lower court had enjoined further use of the rule.
The 9th Circuit reversed the district court decision by a two-to-one vote, holding that plaintiffs had failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The appeals court said that plaintiffs had failed to show a significant impact in light of the fact that the company's bilingual employees could comply with the rule.
Commission guidelines on discrimination because of national origin, issued in 1980, interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting rules requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job, unless an employer shows it is necessary for conducting business. EEOC had urged the Supreme Court to consider Garcia to reaffirm this principle.
EEOC Chairman Tony E. Gallegos noted the importance of this case and its impact in the area of national origin discrimination. Employer policies requiring workers to speak only English make up a significant number of charges brought to the agency alleging discriminatory terms and conditions of employment based on national origin. A Supreme Court ruling on this issue would create a single nationwide standard on English-only rules.
The 9th Circuit's decision is the only appellate level ruling involving English-only requirements in the 14 years since EEOC promulgated national origin guidelines, creating speculation that the Court denied review in Garcia to allow other circuit courts to weigh in on the English-only issue.
In addition to enforcing Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, EEOC enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
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