- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

If the enlightened bureaucrats running the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) get their way, supervising a multilingual workforce will become a nightmare for small businesses across the country. Judging from the EEOC complaint filed Sept. 27 against RD's Drive-In, a family owned diner in Page, Ariz., an employer runs the risk of being hit with a lawsuit anytime he seeks to prevent workers from verbally abusing co-workers and offending customers in a language other than English.

The facts of the RD's case are as follows: Since the diner began operations in 1976, the great majority of its employees and customers have been Navajo Indians from a neighboring reservation. From the start, owners Richard and Shauna Kidman have required their employees to speak English while on the job (a reflection of the reality that many, if not most, of the Navajo employees and customers are more comfortable speaking English than Navajo). But the policy was not strictly enforced. That changed after May 2000, when a tearful young Navajo girl complained to the Kidmans about sexually suggestive comments made to her in Navajo by two male Navajo employees. The Kidmans, who do not speak Navajo, had no idea that anything was wrong. They found, to their surprise, that many of their Navajo customers and employees were repelled by the language they heard from employees when they were in RD's. "We were losing customers and employees offended by the filthy talk behind the counter, and about to get sued for sexual harassment" by female Navajo employees, Mr. Kidman recently told the Denver Post.

The Kidmans' son, Steve, who is currently managing the diner, told The Washington Times yesterday that, since the EEOC announced eight weeks ago that it was filing the suit against RD's, his family has heard from numerous Navajo residents of the area who expressed their support for the Kidmans. Some said they had stopped coming to the restaurant because of the foul language they heard from some members of the staff. In Navajo, several employees gave the Kidman family members obscene nicknames.

Steve Kidman extensively researched the law two years ago, using the EEOC's own Web site. He found that employers were permitted to require that English alone be spoken in the workplace so long as there was a business reason to do so. The policy must also be communicated to employees, who must be warned of the consequences of failure to comply. Steve Kidman announced the policy, which required employees to speak English while on the job unless they were serving a non-English-speaking customer, and asked employees to sign a waiver that they were aware of it. The great majority did so without incident, he said, including the two employees who had been the most prolific users of vulgar language in Navajo.

But four other Navajo employees subsequently filed a complaint with the EEOC, accusing the Kidmans of discrimination by not permitting them to speak Navajo on the job. In September, the EEOC filed suit against the Kidmans on behalf of the plaintiffs: If the Kidmans lose, they're liable for up to $200,000 in damages (this comes on top of close to $100,000 in legal fees that the family has already incurred).

All of this is, quite simply, Orwellian: Had the Kidmans not taken action against miscreant employees speaking Navajo, they would have been subject to a sexual-harassment lawsuit. Because they took reasonable action to stop that behavior, the EEOC is threatening to put them out of business. This is jackboot liberalism at its worst.

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