SAN DIEGO – A grocery company is accused of violating the civil rights of Hispanic workers who claim they were subjected to harassment for speaking Spanish at one store in California.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Albertsons on behalf of two workers and others that, it is claimed, were similarly harassed for speaking Spanish even while on breaks.
Albertsons is accused of unlawful employment practices on the basis of national origin. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on behalf of two workers from a store in San Diego, Guadalupe Zamorano and Hermelinda Stevenson, on May 3.
The complaint states that about 2012, Albertsons developed an unwritten English-only policy, which Albertsons "implemented as essentially a no-Spanish policy."
The suit states this policy led to the production of a training video that directed managers and employees not to speak Spanish as long as there was a non-Spanish speaking person present.
At the store in San Diego, this led to employees being told not to speak Spanish anywhere on the premises, even when they were on breaks, according to the complaint.
Managers and others, it is claimed, "verbally harassed Hispanic employees, telling them not to speak Spanish, threatening them with discipline, and publicly reprimanding them for allegedly speaking Spanish."
Zamorano worked for Albertsons since August 2007, at store No. 6785 on Lake Murray Boulevard in San Diego. It is claimed she was reprimanded for speaking Spanish outside the store in 2012.
Stevenson has worked for the company since 1989, and was transferred to the same store in 2012.
"In October 2012, Stevenson was also reprimanded by (Store Director of Store No. 6785 Richard) Brown in front of the store for speaking Spanish for the same incident that Zamorano was reprimanded for," the complaint states.
"Charging Party Stevenson and her co-workers were prohibited...from speaking Spanish at work, even during breaks in to the break room.
"As a result of the harassment and monitoring from management, Charging Party Stevenson and other workers would leave the premises to eat lunch in order to feel comfortable," the suit states.
The EEOC is asking the court to grant a permanent injunction barring Albertsons and its employees for engaging in any actions that might lead to harassment on the basis of national origin.