EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
Title VII: National Origin
August 24, 2001
This is in response to your memorandum of August 2, 2001, regarding Spanish-language training materials. In the memorandum, you stated that [ ] develops Spanish-language training modules for clients with a large number of employees who are native Spanish speakers. You have asked us whether it would violate EEO laws for your company to permit clients to automatically assign Spanish-language training modules to employees who are native-Spanish speakers.
As you know, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Commission) enforces the federal employment discrimination statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits, among other things, employment discrimination based on national origin. Because an individual's primary language is closely linked to national origin, discrimination against individuals based on their native language may violate Title VII in certain circumstances.
In the circumstances described, employers provide Spanish-language training to some employees because they have limited English skills. Some employees receive training in English and some in Spanish, but all receive the same substantive training. In fact, Spanish-language training benefits employees with limited English skills because they would presumably learn less from training that is in English. Under these circumstances, providing Spanish-language training would not violate Title VII. On the other hand, it might be a violation of Title VII to force a native Spanish speaker to take a course in Spanish if he or she desired to take it in English.
Because Spanish-language training would not ordinarily violate Title VII, it is appropriate for your company to create Spanish-language training modules for its clients.
We hope that this information is helpful. Please note that this letter is merely an informal discussion of the issues you have raised and does not constitute an official opinion of the
Commission. In addition, our silence on other statements or analyses that may have been presented should not be construed as agreement with those matters.
Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel
This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.
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