U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today succeeded in adding an amendment during an Appropriations Committee meeting that protects the rights of employers who require English to be spoken on the job.
The amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill would prevent the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from using any appropriated funds for the purpose of bring lawsuits against a company that requires its employees to speak English. The committee adopted the amendment by a 15 to 14 vote.
"This is America, and in America we speak English,” said Alexander, a member of the Appropriations Committee. “The Senate has declared English our national language, and requiring it in the workplace is not discrimination – it is common sense. It’s ridiculous that employers from the shoe shop to Wal-Mart to 911 emergency callers need to be worried that they’ll be sued if they require their workers to communicate in our common language.”
Alexander’s amendment was prompted by a lawsuit filed in April by the EEOC against the Salvation Army for allegedly discriminating against two of the Army's employees in a Framingham, Ma., thrift store for requiring them to speak English on the job. The Salvation Army in Massachusetts clearly posted the rule, and the employees were given a year to learn. The EEOC is an entity funded by Congress with a current backlog of approximately 56,000 cases.
At a Senate hearing on the matter in May, Alexander told EEOC Chair Naomi Earp, “I find this to be an astonishing waste of your time and taxpayer money to… by your lawsuit – require every single employer in America to worry that they will face litigation if they require English to be spoken in the workplace.” Alexander also spoke on the Senate floor in May about his intention to offer legislation to protect the rights of employers to require English on the job.
“A century ago, many American companies and private associations led an effort to Americanize new immigrants and teach them English. It’s astonishing that anyone is allowed to sue organizations like the Salvation Army for doing the very same thing - insisting that its employees learn and speak our national language,” said Alexander.
Alexander, a former U.S. Secretary of Education, is a longtime advocate of policies to encourage immigrant assimilation and to help prospective citizens learn English. During the immigration debate last year, the Senate passed, by a 91 to 1 vote, his “Strengthening American Citizenship Act” that would have, among other provisions:
Provided education grants up to $500 for English courses to legal immigrants who declare intent to become an American citizen.
Allowed citizenship applicants who learn to speak English fluently to meet the residency requirement after four years of living in the United States rather than five.