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Agency Says Ostioneria Michoacan Fired Non-Spanish-Speaking Servers

HOUSTON – A Houston restaurant violated federal law against race and national origin discrimination when it fired two employees for not speaking Spanish and failed to hire a class of non-Hispanic applicants, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in November 2007, Michoacan Seafood Group L.L.C., doing business as Ostioneria Michoacan #8, hired Gerald Jones, an African American male, and Trang Nguyen, a Vietnamese female, as food servers. However, although they were well qualified, Ostioneria’s management fired them after discovering during orientation that neither of them spoke Spanish. Additionally, the company denied employment to a class of non-Hispanic applicants by using the inability to speak Spanish as a pretext to maintain a Hispanic staff, the EEOC said.

By requiring the ability to speak Spanish as a prerequisite for employment in food server positions in its restaurant, the EEOC contends that the company violated the race and national origin discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The suit (Civil Action No. 4:09-cv-03159) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division.

R.J. Ruff, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Houston District Office, said, “This lawsuit informs companies that they should not use a Spanish fluency requirement to hide unlawful hiring practices.”

Jim Sacher, regional attorney of the Houston District Office, said, “The requirement that its food servers speak Spanish makes no sense, since its customers are quite diverse.”

The EEOC filed suit after attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination as well as back wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and other relief for Jones, Nguyen and the unspecified class of non-Hispanic applicants.

Ostioneria Michoacan #8 is a local Houston restaurant specializing in Mexican seafood dishes.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at