Atlanta: Hispanic group claims school's language policy discriminatory

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu May 11 12:18:02 UTC 2006

Hispanic group claims school's language policy discriminatory

The Associated Press - ATLANTA

A Hispanic advocacy group is claiming that Atlanta's Oglethorpe University
discriminated against Latino workers by requiring that employees speak
only English to supervisors and colleagues. The alleged policy targeted
three Spanish-speaking housekeepers, according to a motion filed Wednesday
by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "We allege the
housekeepers had been satisfactorily performing their job without a need
to speak proficient English," said Tisha Tallman, a lawyer with the
organization. "We need to take a closer look at that policy."

The private school, which has roughly 1,000 students, argues it never had
such a requirement. "We absolutely never had that policy. There was a sort
of practice that said our staff needs to be able to communicate in
English. And I think that policy is probably a legal one to have," said
Larry Schall, a former civil rights attorney who became president of the
school last summer. "But I'm a firm believer in civil rights of employees
and the value of having employees of a diverse background that I wouldn't
think of trying to implement that." The organization's motion seeks to
join a lawsuit lodged against the school last month by the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission. It accuses the school of requiring the
housekeepers to learn English in 60 days or risk termination and to speak
and understand some English to keep their positions.

"There are more and more individuals entering the work force who may not
be proficient in English. As they increase in the work force, we sometimes
see the rise of workplace policies that might interfere with their ability
to maintain their jobs," Tallman said.


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