The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently found that a college campus discriminated against janitors by failing to translate employment policies and disciplinary documents into Spanish. Twelve Hispanic employees of the Auraria Higher Education Center filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging that Auraria denied them knowledge of the terms and conditions or their employment and put them in danger by not translating information into Spanish. The employees further alleged that they were unable to explain workplace conflicts because Auraria did not provide translators at staff meetings. In response, Auraria claimed that it does not have an English-only policy, that translations are allowed in the workplace, and that federal law does not require employment policies to be written in Spanish.

After a three-year investigation, the EEOC determined that Auraria discriminated against the janitors due to their national origin. The parties will attend a mandatory conciliation to attempt to resolve the dispute. If they are unable to do so, the union that represents the janitors will file a lawsuit in federal court.

Gordon & Rees recommends that employers with large populations of non-native English speakers translate their employee handbooks, disciplinary documents, and warning signs and have access to a translator. If the employer has limited resources, it should make sure at a minimum that its EEO, no-harassment, no-retaliation, open-door/grievance, and safety/work rules are available in other languages or that it can otherwise prove that this information has been explained to the employee in a way that he or she can understand.