Healthcare Services Group settles English Only Rule Discrimination Lawsuit

Healthcare Services Group, Inc., a company that offers housekeeping and other services to healthcare facilities and has 35,000 employees across 48 states, has reached an agreement to provide compensation and corrective measures to an employee following an investigation.

The case involved a female employee working as a “light housekeeper” at a nursing home in Concord, California, who alleged that the company prohibited her from speaking Spanish while at work. The investigation confirmed the existence of an “English-only” rule, a policy that, if enforced without justification by business necessity, constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Restrictive language policies are only allowed if they are required to ensure safe or efficient business operation and is put in place for nondiscriminatory reasons. Client relations and customer preference do not justify discriminatory policies,” said Rosa Salazar, acting director of the EEOC’s Oakland Local Office.

Title VII prohibits national origin discrimination unless there is a business necessity, making “English Only” policies a violation of federal law. Furthermore, these policies are considered discriminatory because they negatively impact workers who speak English as a second language, treating them differently when they use their native language and subjecting them to reprimands or other consequences.

Following the investigation, a settlement was reached after the parties engaged in a pre-litigation conciliation process. As part of the settlement, Healthcare Services Group will provide monetary damages to the housekeeper and offer training for all California employees, as well as specific training for California managers and human resources personnel.

The company also agreed to revise its California policies to explicitly state that employees not involved in patient care are not restricted in the languages they speak at work and have the right to use their preferred language. These policies will be issued in English, Spanish, and other languages spoken by 5% or more of its California workforce. Additionally, the company will remove English fluency requirements from the light housekeeper job description and post a notice of the agreement for two years.

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