Rochester: Hess Settles "English Only" Case

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jul 11 13:15:32 UTC 2008

Hess Settles "English Only" Case

  Reported by: Sean Carroll
Email: scarroll at
Last Update: 7/10 1:01 pm

 (Rochester, N.Y.) -- Last fall, workers at a Hess gas station on
Ridge Road in Rochester complained to the state Attorney General when
told to speak English only by higher ups. They said they began losing
their jobs or facing disciplinary action. After months of
investigation Hess, the workers, and the attorney general's office
reached a settlement.  Seven workers who filed complaints will split
$94,000 in restitution. The Hess Corporation also has to adopt a
non-discrimination language policy in the work place, reimburse the
attorney general's office $35,000 for the investigation, and train
some staff on discrimination policies.

Jose Hernandez, who managed that West Ridge Road Hess station, claimed
he and his co-workers were told they couldn't speak Spanish at work to
each other or to customers. "They're asking us not to speak our
language, that's a part of who we are," Hernandez told 13WHAM News in
October. "It's almost like telling us not to breathe; that's a part of
who I am."  Hernandez claimed he intentionally scheduled
Spanish-speaking workers on each shift so they could interact with the
convenience store's Spanish-speaking customers.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez agreed that the Spanish
speakers actually brought in customers. "This was a win-win situation
for Hess," he said. Rodriguez said the attorney general's office case
should set a precedent, statewide and nationally, that employers can
not discriminate against a worker's nationality, or the language they
speak.   Employers can only insist on "English only" for business or
safety reasons.
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