[lg policy] La Cantera Resort Sued For Discrimination, ‘English-Only’ Policy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Sep 25 10:33:15 EDT 2018


La Cantera Resort Sued For Discrimination, ‘English-Only’ Policy [image:
Jackie Wang] Jackie Wang <https://therivardreport.com/author/jackie-wang/> 15
hours ago
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Jackie Wang / Rivard Report

Javier Espinoza of Espinoza Law Firm explains the discrimination lawsuit
filed by the EEOC at a press conference on Monday, Sept. 24. Plaintiffs of
the lawsuit stand behind him.
Updated 6 mins ago
This story has been updated.

La Cantera Resort & Spa’s operators face a federal lawsuit over
discrimination, including a so-called “English-only” policy for its
employees.

After three years of investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission <https://www.eeoc.gov>  (EEOC) on Monday filed a federal lawsuit
against DH San Antonio Management for discriminating against employees who
spoke Spanish at work – including while on break or while serving at events
such as quinceañeras.

The EEOC filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of 25 current and former
employees of La Cantera Resort & Spa
<https://www.destinationhotels.com/la-cantera-resort-and-spa>. San
Antonio-based Espinoza Law Firm <http://espinozafirm.com> joined the agency
on the lawsuit, which was filed in the Western District of Texas. The local
law firm represents the plaintiffs who originally filed a claim with the
EEOC in 2015 – 23 of the 25 named in the lawsuit.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the resort in Northwest San Antonio
changed management in 2014
<https://therivardreport.com/la-cantera-hill-country-resort-undergoing-major-renovation-next-april/>
and began prohibiting employees from speaking Spanish. Management allegedly
punished those who violated the language ban with write-ups, demotions, and
firings.

The lawsuit claims that Kathleen Bischoff, who was hired in 2014 and
oversaw the resort’s banquet department alongside fellow new hire Will
Primavera, called Hispanics “Mexican spics” and said Spanish was a “foul
language.” One plaintiff, who complained to human resources about the
English-only policy, was subsequently demoted from supervisor to server.
The plaintiff, who had worked as a supervisor for 25 years, refused to
accept the demotion and was then fired.

Sergio Vitela, one of the plaintiffs represented by Espinoza Law Firm,
worked for La Cantera for 12 years. Vitela said he was fired after speaking
Spanish on the job. He and his father both worked at La Cantera at the time.

“My father, he speaks Spanish, and they were telling me not to talk to my
dad in Spanish, and I can’t [not speak Spanish] – it’s my father,” Vitela
said. “That’s when I started seeing the first signs of them not liking our
culture and race, really. They were telling us not to speak any Spanish.”
Related: Jorge Ramos: ‘This Is Not a Time to Be Silent’
<https://therivardreport.com/jorge-ramos-this-is-not-a-time-to-be-silent/>

Vitela said his father understands English, but not being allowed to speak
in his native language was difficult. According to Vitela, Espinoza, and
some La Cantera staffers, Vitela is the only person in the group of 23
individuals who filed a claim with EEOC who speaks English fluently — the
rest speak it proficiently enough to do their jobs. Vitela said he had to
encourage his coworkers to file an EEOC claim against La Cantera for
discrimination, as many of them were afraid of losing their jobs.

“Whatever [La Cantera was] doing, it’s illegal,” Vitela said.

John Spomer, vice president and managing director of the resort, denied
“any claims related to unwritten policies that allegedly existed three or
four years ago.” He said that at Destination Hotels, the company that
operates La Cantera, they celebrate the heritage of San Antonio.

“We work very hard to foster an environment which all individuals are
treated with respect and dignity,” Spomer said. “We’re proud that we employ
a diverse multicultural workforce, and encourage our associates to converse
with our guests and each other in a language that was mutually understood.
And they’ve always been allowed to do that.”

Spomer said the only language guideline at the resort is to speak the
language a guest speaks to you in.

“It’s part of the service business,” he said. “When spoken to in one
language, we should speak in that language.”

Spomer added that employees are welcome to speak to each other in the
language they choose.

“If there are no guests and you’re in the associate cafeteria or in the
back of the house corridors, feel free to converse in a language that
whoever you’re speaking to mutually understands,” he said. “That’s been
going on since the day I’ve been here.”

Javier Espinoza, attorney at Espinoza Law Firm, said it took claimants a
lot of courage to file a complaint against their employer.

“They could have said, ‘I’m not gonna burn a bridge, I want to keep my
job,’” he said. “But they said, ‘I want to do something because, this isn’t
right for anybody in this town.’”

Usually, the EEOC either gives claimants a “right to sue” letter or
determines there is not enough evidence to do so, Espinoza explained. But
in this case, the agency found the claims were valid and the evidence
strong enough to bring the lawsuit forward itself.

“That’s like a 600 pound gorilla behind us, for sure,” Espinoza said,
adding that this is the first lawsuit of this nature in San Antonio to the
best of his knowledge.

“I think speaking Spanish is innate to Hispanics,” Espinoza said. “When you
grow up with something innate to you – your language, the food you eat, the
music you listen to – I have no right to discriminate against your culture.”

-- 
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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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