EEOC UPHOLDS LANGUAGE DISCRIMINATION VIOLATION
When a private contractor being audited by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) complained that he could not understand the federal employee auditing him, the management ordered the employee to communicate all messages through a supervisor. Apparently, the contractor had problems dealing not only with the employee’s accent, but also her written communications. EEOC had no problem, however, in ruling the agency had discriminated against the employee based on national origin. It ordered the agency to examine the damage done the employee, including emotional damage, and to pay her compensatory damages. They can be as high as $300,000 and attorney fee awards can be in the same financial range. The agency lost the case because it did not investigate the contractor’s complaint to see if the employee’s communications were unintelligible, nor did it offer any evidence that anyone else in the agency or that the employee dealt with complained. (See Gennie L. v. Ashton Carter, DOD, EEOC Appeal No. Appeal No. 0120122795 (2016)) EEOC’s position in language problem cases is that employer’s must have legitimate business reasons to base an employment decision on linguistic characteristics and those reasons must justify any burden placed on the employee.