After acquiring a well-known resort and spa, a new management team decided to stamp out the use of Spanish among its largely Hispanic workforce. One year later, the company was left with no Hispanic managers and a costly legal settlement.
Most employees of the La Cantera Resort and Spa, San Antonio, TX, were of Hispanic origin. However, when the business was acquired by a bigger company, the new owners decided to make some changes.
Among the most significant developments was refusing to let employees speak Spanish.
The restriction on the use of Spanish applied anywhere and anytime on spa property, including while workers were on rest breaks. It didn’t matter whether customers were nearby. Once the policy was put in effect, Hispanic workers were frequently scolded and threatened with termination for speaking Spanish.
One of the new bosses referred to Spanish as “a foul language.”
Furthermore, an HR manager said to the Hispanic workers, “This is America, so speak English! What’s the problem?”
When the Hispanic staffers complained about the forced suppression of their native language, La Cantera retaliated by terminating them and replacing them with non-Hispanic employees.
As a result, the entire senior management staff of the spa, most of whom had been Hispanic, was gone within a year.
Twenty-five Hispanic employees went to the EEOC, which sued La Cantera for national origin discrimination. The agency argued that it was illegal to forbid people from speaking Spanish.
The employer lost. La Cantera paid $2,625,000 to make the lawsuit go away.
Based on EEOC v. La Cantera Resort and Spa.
(From the March 20, 2020, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors)