The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently reached a conciliation agreement with R & SL, doing business as Total Employment Management, a staffing firm in Washington. The firm has agreed to pay $276,000 to resolve a charge of national origin discrimination and retaliation.

The EEOC noted that the company had imposed a no-Spanish rule without adequate justification, and five employees had been fired in two Washington locations for opposing the rule and speaking Spanish. This conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits national origin discrimination and retaliation.

“Employers should avoid imposing limitations on what languages can be used at work,” said Elizbeth Cannon, director of EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “Unless there is a legitimate business necessity, such policies are likely to discriminate. We are pleased that [Total Employment Management] agreed to take meaningful, comprehensive steps to remedy this issue.”

The four-year conciliation agreement requires Total Employment Management to update policies and procedures in both English and Spanish, provide an anonymous complaint process, promptly investigate complaints of harassment and discrimination, and train all Washington-based employees.