Albertsons sued for alleged ban on employees conversing in Spanish

A lawsuit was filed against the Albertsons grocery stores, alleging that the chain violated the rights of Hispanic employees in San Diego by forbidding them to speak Spanish around non-Spanish speakers, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Thursday in federal court. The suit accuses Idaho-based Albertsons of discriminating against Hispanic employees in the San Diego area, harassing them and creating a hostile workplace, the Union-Tribune reported.

The lawsuit alleges that Albertsons’ policy forbade the employees from speaking Spanish even when conversing during breaks or helping Spanish-speaking customers, the Union-Tribune reported.

“Employers have to be aware of the consequences of certain language policies,” Anna Park, an attorney for the commission’s district office covering San Diego County, said in a statement on Thursday. “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.”

Albertsons spokeswoman Jenna Watkinson said in a statement that the grocery chain “does not require that its employees speak English only.”

“Albertsons serves a diverse customer population and encourages employees with foreign language abilities to use those skills to serve its customers,” Watkinson said.

The lawsuit asked the court to order Albertsons to stop discriminating against employees based on their national origin, to compensate the affected employees for monetary losses and emotional pain, and to award punitive damages and to pay the EEOC’s legal costs, the Union-Tribune reported.

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