[lg policy] California: Workers sue over alleged English-only policy: Spanish banned even at breaks

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 24 14:16:48 UTC 2010

Workers sue over alleged English-only policy: Spanish banned even at breaks
Herald Staff Writer
Updated: 01/23/2010 01:29:57 AM PST

BFI Waste Services of Salinas is facing a lawsuit filed by a current
and a former employee who claim the company illegally prohibits its
employees from speaking Spanish in the workplace. Liliana Jimenez, who
was fired by BFI in September 2008, and Elizabeth Castillo, who
remains employed by the company, said in a lawsuit filed in Monterey
County Superior Court that the company imposed an English-only
language policy, disallowing them from speaking Spanish to other
employees during work hours, breaks and lunch periods.  "You can't
prohibit someone from speaking their native language, because that is
discrimination," said Michael Marsh, Jimenez's attorney.

Jimenez alleges she was fired because she refused to comply with the
policy. Jimenez and Castillo were hired as bilingual customer service
representatives to primarily handle phone calls with Spanish-speaking
customers, according to the court document.   BFI General Manager Doug
Kenyon said he is was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.
Marsh said, "An employer can only make an English-only rule if it's a
business necessity."

An example of a business necessity, Marsh said, is when heavy
machinery is being operated and everyone involved needs to be able to
understand each other to avoid injury.
In addition to language discrimination, the suit alleges the
plaintiffs were regularly subjected to derogatory comments about
Latinos from several BFI supervisors. "It was quite pervasive the kind
 of harassment that existed there," Marsh said.  Castillo and Jimenez
are seeking an end to the company's alleged language policy,
compensation for court and attorney fees and for emotional distress.
Additionally, Jimenez is seeking lost wages and benefits.

Laith Agha can be reached at 646-4358 or lagha at montereyherald.com.

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