Lawsuit claims firm banned Spanish, violated rights act

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Aug 14 14:08:11 UTC 2005

Lawsuit claims firm banned Spanish, violated rights act
August 12, 2005 (CHICAGO)

Two Spanish-speaking hair stylists in Chicago claim in a federal lawsuit
filed this week that the company they worked for strictly banned the use
of Spanish -- even when employees were on their breaks. The federal Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission joined the lawsuit filed Thursday
against Primps LLC and Management Advantage Group LLC, the owners of more
than 20 Supercuts hair salons in the Chicago area.

The lawsuit claims that the hair stylists' former bosses in 2003 posted a
sign at Supercuts where they worked that read, "Speaking a language other
than English is not only disrespectful, it's also prohibited." Managers
forbid communication in Spanish anywhere at the business, including while
workers were on their breaks well away from customers, the lawsuit claims.
The EEOC argues that the language ban violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act
that prohibits employment discrimination based on national origin.

A spokesman for Supercuts said Thursday that there was never such a
blanket ban. "We absolutely, vehemently deny the allegations and believe
the evidence will show otherwise," said attorney Davi Hirsch. One of the
stylists, 54-year-old Rosa Gonzalez, of Chicago, said the prohibition was
only lifted when a customer could not speak any English. "I think it's not
fair," said Gonzalez, who came to the United States 27 years ago from
Mexico. "Business(es) need to understand that we are free to speak our

Gonzalez and the other hair stylist who filed the lawsuit, Blanca Sauceda,
worked for Supercuts at different locations for more than a decade, said
private attorney Kamran Memon. They quit because they felt uncomfortable
at work. The two did not challenge rules that limit the use of Spanish in
front of English-speaking customers, Memon said. But she said Gonzalez and
Sauceda were told it was "ignorant" and "disrespectful" to speak Spanish
at their workplace. Hirsch said there was a company language policy but
that it stops well short of any sweeping Spanish prohibitions.

"The goal of the policy was to speak essentially whatever language you
chose in the lunchroom or on breaks, when you're not servicing customers,"
he said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2005

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