Spanish Speaking Employees Sue Employer For English-Only Rule

| by Brendan Kelly

Six Spanish-speaking employees of Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, California, have filed a lawsuit against the facility’s no-Spanish policy, claiming that it is discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, filed June 18, the facility has a no-Spanish-speaking rule that is strictly enforced during work hours, including breaks and lunch periods.

The policy includes a statement that says, “English is considered to be the official language of the state of California and should be spoken while doing the work of the state unless otherwise indicated by the needs of clients or their families.”

The California Department of Fair Employment Act says that an employer can’t prohibit the use of any language in the workplace unless he or she can prove that it is justified by business necessity.

The plaintiffs are a custodian and five food service workers, none of whom interact with patients as part of their jobs, according to their attorney Joseph Scully.

“If two 50-year-old ladies washing dishes want to have a conversation in Spanish, how is there an overriding business necessity?” Scully said.

Scully said that the employees - Rosaura Herrera, Lillian Torres, Delfino Herrera, Jorge Torres, Ana Alicia and Alfonso Ramirez – are all native Spanish speakers and longtime staff members.

According to the lawsuit, supervisors will eavesdrop on conversations between employees and hand out disciplinary notes if employees are caught speaking Spanish.

The plaintiffs say that they are “systematically bullied and intimidated” and that they feel like “second class employees.”

A spokesman for Fairview Developmental Center declined the Orange County Register’s request for comments.

Sources: Orange County Register, California Department of Developmental Services

Photo Credit: California Department of Developmental Services