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Latino Daily News

Thursday May 19, 2011

Hispanic Workers Sue For Not Being Allowed to Speak Spanish At Work

Hispanic Workers Sue For Not Being Allowed to Speak Spanish At Work

Photo: Workers not allowed to speak Spanish at work

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Hispanic workers in Rochester, New York are suing the city, claiming harassment and discrimination, after they say they were told they could no longer speak Spanish while at work.

Daniel Torres has worked for the city of Rochester for the last 24 years, and said he found the discrimination “hurtful.”

Friday, Torres and seven of his coworkers with the Department of Environmental Services filed a lawsuit against the city, in which they allege their boss, Karen St. Aubin, said they were no longer allowed to speak Spanish at work anymore. Their attorney, Christina Agola said the men only speak Spanish about personal matters and when they are on break.

“What’s so wrong with the Hispanic culture and language that you can’t tolerate it in the workplace?” Agola asked.

Torres says 13 employees met with St. Aubin and Paul Holohan, City Commissioner, to ask why they were no longer permitted to speak Spanish at work, but that the two would not answer the question.

“The fact of the matter is even if it’s an unwritten policy, if it’s being enforced by the highest levels of the department of sanitation, then it’s a policy,” said Agola.

A city spokesperson however argued that no such policy exists, and “seems to have sprang from a misunderstanding between a supervisor and an employee.”

The employees that filed suit are not asking for any money, Angola clarified, they are simply asking to be respected and want it in writing that they are allowed to speak Spanish at work.