Volume 1

Garcia v. Spun Steak Co.: Speak-English-Only Rules and the Demise of Workplace Pluralism

by Edward M. Chen

The increasing number of Asian Pacific Islander and Latino immigrants to the United States has fueled the recent swell of litigation over language rights in the workplace. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, language-based discrimination—including accent discrimination and rules prohibiting the use of non-English languages in the workplace—is a form of national origin discrimination. This Casenote examines Garcia v. Spun Steak Co., a 1993 Ninth Circuit decision which rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the company’s Speak-English-Only rule had a disproportionately adverse effect on its Latino employees. The author finds that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling displayed insensitivity to the unique nexus between language and national origin identity. Speak-English-Only rules have a disparate impact on language minorities because they suppress a core aspect of ethnic identity, impair communication, and create an atmosphere of inferiority, isolation and intimidation. Furthermore, the author explains that the court improperly rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines, which presume such rules have a disparate impact on nonnative English speakers. Finally, the author concludes that the Garcia decision has grave implications for cultural and linguistic pluralism in the United States.

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June 2011

Volume 18

Volume 18 was produced during the 2010-2011 school year.


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