SAN DIEGO - Albertsons, Inc., a national retail grocery chain, violated federal law when a class of Hispanic employees in San Diego were subjected to harassment and a hostile work environment through the implementation of a no-Spanish policy, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, beginning in late 2012, the grocery retailer prohibited Hispanic employees from speaking Spanish around non-Spanish speakers, including when they spoke to Spanish-speaking customers and during breaks. The EEOC alleges the managers publicly reprimanded Hispanic employees caught speaking Spanish. The EEOC also contends that no corrective action was taken, despite numerous employee complaints, forcing employees to transfer.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Albertson's Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-00852-MMA-BGS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's suit seeks monetary damages for the class of affected employees, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent and correct discrimination in the future.
"Employers have to be aware of the consequences of certain language policies," said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes San Diego County in its jurisdiction. "Targeting a particular language for censorship is often synonymous with targeting a particular national origin, which is both illegal and highly destructive to workplace morale and productivity."
Christopher Green, director of the EEOC's San Diego Local Office, added, "It is extremely important for workers to feel safe in coming forward to report harassment. It is equally important for employers to make certain that harassment is investigated and addressed appropriately."
According to the company's website, www.albertsons.com, Albertsons companies is one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States, employing approximately 280,000 people across 35 states. They operate under 19 well-known banners, such as Albertsons, Vons, Safeway and Pavilions, and reach over 2,300 communities.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
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