Two former employees of credit collection companies are suing the firms over what they allege was discrimination because they spoke Spanish.
Katalina Taborda and Carmen Monell say they were berated by co-workers for speaking Spanish, including by one who would sing the American national anthem whenever he heard them, PR Newswire reported.
They argue that their employers, Central Credit Solutions and Radius Global Solutions, enforced a "speak English only" rule in violation of federal law.
"My complaint alleges that my Spanish language skills were an asset to the companies because I could communicate with the companies' many Spanish-speaking consumers," Taborda said, according to PR Newswire. "As I allege in the complaint, I feel as if the reasons the companies prohibited me and my Latina co-workers from speaking Spanish were discrimination and retaliation for asserting my rights."
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The two workers allege that a supervisor complained when they watched Spanish-language television during their breaks.
"I worked for almost eight years at these companies, and my speaking Spanish never interfered with my work. There was no reason for them to establish this policy," Monell added.
Stacy Villalobos, an attorney representing the two workers, said the case is part of a growing pattern.
"Many employers wrongly think they're allowed to require their employees to speak only English on the job, when in fact that's typically a violation of their civil rights," she added. "Especially since the 2016 elections, we've witnessed an uptick in incidents of language-based discrimination against immigrant workers or workers incorrectly perceived as immigrants that is disturbing."
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In a recent ruling, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordered a firm to pay $475,000 in compensation to 22 workers. Wisconsin Plastics alleged that the workers had inadequate English language skills, prompting a lawsuit to be initiated in 2014.
The investigation concluded that the workers did not require English language proficiency to do their jobs and that their terminations therefore broke the law, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
In March, a number of employees at a San Francisco clothing store began a lawsuit in which they alleged they had been pressured into speaking only English while at work.
The employees said they were told to speak only English in the break room and on the store floor, and added that when they complained their hours were reduced.
Forever 21, the company involved in the suit, released a statement at the time declaring that it does not have an English-only policy and added that it was committed to diversity, KNTV reported.