On Fox, GOP strategist Conway asserted that "political correctness" could lead to "two planes crashing"

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN & ANDREW IRONSIDE

During an O'Reilly Factor discussion of a lawsuit over two employees fired for speaking Spanish in the workplace, Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway said: "[W]hat starts out as maybe the person doesn't speak English, getting -- putting mayonnaise instead of mustard as you requested on your sandwich is one day going to blossom into two air traffic controllers who don't speak great English because political correctness has made us appoint them to those positions. They're going to have two planes crashing in the sky." In fact, the federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination contains an exception for "instances where ... national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise."

On the November 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, while discussing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit against the Salvation Army for allegedly firing two employees for speaking Spanish in the workplace, guest host Laura Ingraham asked Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway: "What stops ... an EEOC lawsuit against ... public schools who demand that kids learn English?" Conway responded: "There's nothing at the moment. And in fact, what starts out as maybe the person doesn't speak English, getting -- putting mayonnaise instead of mustard as you requested on your sandwich is one day going to blossom into two air traffic controllers who don't speak great English because political correctness has made us appoint them to those positions. They're going to have two planes crashing in the sky. And that's not a dramatic example. That's what happens with slippery slopes."

In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended in 1991, which prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of national origin -- the provision of law on which the EEOC suit is based -- specifically includes an exception for "those certain instances where ... national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise." And indeed, the lawsuit specifically alleged that the ability to speak English "was unrelated to the job they had been performing since 1999." From the lawsuit:

This is an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to correct unlawful employment practices on the basis of national origin and to provide appropriate relief to Dolores Escorbor and Maria del Carmen Perdomo, who were affected by discrimination in the workplace. As alleged with greater particularity below, The Salvation Army ("Defendant") subjected Escorbor and Perdomo to discrimination on the basis of their national origin (Hispanic) by requiring them to comply with Defendant's English-only rule, and terminating them because they failed to comply with its proficiency requirement, spoke Spanish in the workplace and were not fluent in speaking or understanding English.

[...]

9. Escorbor and Perdomo both began work at Defendant's thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1999. Spanish is their native language and they both speak very little English.

10. They both worked commendably and without incident for at least five years, relying on Spanish as their principal means of workplace communication in their jobs as clothes sorters.

11. In 2004, Defendant decided to enforce a written English language policy at the Framingham store, which it had not previously enforced while Escorbor and Perdomo had been employed. It delayed enforcement of the policy for at least a year. During this year, employees who could not speak English adequately were told they needed to learn English, even though learning English was not part of the written English language policy and was unrelated to the job they had been performing since 1999.

12. On or about December 21, 2005, Defendant terminated both Escorbor and Perdomo for failing to learn English and for speaking Spanish

13. The effect of the practices complained of above has been to deprive Escorbor and Perdomo of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees because of their national origin and to inflict emotional pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation, and inconvenience upon Escorbor and Perdomo.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations that maintains international standards for aviation safety, has declared English proficiency essential for pilots and air traffic controllers and has put in place requirements aimed at preventing the kind of disaster that Conway described. From the ICAO:

Between 1976 and 2005, more than 1100 passengers and crew lost their lives in accidents in which investigators determined that air traffic control (ATCO) communications had played a contributory role (source: ICAO Journal). In order to improve air transport safety, new ICAO English language proficiency standards have recently been adopted (Amendment 164 to Annex 1). The new rules outline the minimum level of English language proficiency (level 4 -- operational) required by pilots and air traffic controllers with a compliance date of March 2008. As a result, applicants for, and holders of air traffic controller and pilot licenses must demonstrate their ability to speak and understand the language used for radiotelephony communications according to ICAO's six (6) proficiency criteria: pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and interactions.

The ICAO standards apply to its 190 member states, including the United States.

From the November 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

INGRAHAM: Here's a question I have for you. What stops, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick [Conway], a lawsuit, an EEOC lawsuit against, you know, public schools?

CONWAY: Nothing.

INGRAHAM: You know, public schools who demand that kids learn English. I mean, that's discriminatory. Why should they learn English?

CONWAY: There's nothing at the moment. And in fact, what starts out as maybe the person doesn't speak English, getting -- putting mayonnaise instead of mustard as you requested on your sandwich is one day going to blossom into two air traffic controllers who don't speak great English because political correctness has made us appoint them to those positions. They're going to have two planes crashing in the sky. And that's not a dramatic example. That's what happens with slippery slopes.

By the way, English empowers employees. This is not just to protect you and me. This is to protect them. Don't you want this person, Tammy [Fox-Isicoff, panelist and immigration lawyer], to understand "Building on fire, get out"? It's to protect them as well.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Kellyanne Conway
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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