In any case, I don't see how a business owner can be compelled to converse in a language they don't speak, or don't want to speak. Anyone who is offended by the sign is overly sensitive, and the whole case seems silly.
I checked out the web site for Geno's Steaks.....
Welcome To Geno's Steaks - The Best in South Philly
The court date over this issue is being delayed....
Welcome To Geno's Steaks
I would KILL for a Geno's right now.
And, according to our corporate lawyer, persisting to speak in a foreign language in the presence of a co-worker can be successfully sued under "creating a hostile work environment".
How's that for turnabout?
I then noticed a commentary displayed along with the controversial sign:
This is a printout of an email that was circulating a few years back, quoting Theodore Roosevelt's views on immigration and being an American. So, rather than actual response to innovative customers figuring out how to order a cheesesteak in languages that don’t have a word for a cheesesteak (hard for me to imagine as a real problem), it appears to me that Mr. Vento is simply using his storefront window to promote a cause that he believes in. Nothing wrong with that.
Why isn't the ACLU coming to this guy's defense?
On a number of occassions at various Dahls Food Stores in Des Moines, I have encountered ethnic Bosnian employees speaking English when interacting with customers in the course of their employment yet they converse in their ethnic language in their personal conversations with one another. I see nothing wrong with Bosnians speaking their native language in their personal conversations.
The following case provides an example of where the courts determined that a hostile work environment was created when employees did not speak English:
Gonzalez v. Salvation Army 89-1679-CIV-T-17 (11th Cir. 1991)
Ivette Gonzalez was a probation counselor with the Salvation Army, hired for her bilingual ability. Because the office was small, the lunch area was located in the open-air conference room, where workers accessed files and held staff meetings. Conversations held in this area could be heard by the typing pool as well as by those waiting in the reception area. Non-Spanish speakers complained that hearing people speak Spanish made them uncomfortable because “they felt certain conversation were about them, but were unsure what the actual content was.” In another instance, a client waiting at reception heard a group of employees (including Gonzalez) speaking in Spanish about condoms, a topic the client deemed unprofessional. As a result, the director requested the bilingual supervisor convey to the employees that only English was to be used in the conference area in order to:
1. Bolster the morale problem of non-Spanish speakers;
2. Allow the director to supervise conversations that both clients and staff could hear.
Spanish continued to be spoken and a letter to the Spanish speaking employees notified them of a formal request to refrain from speaking Spanish in the area. Gonzalez told the director that she disagreed with the policy and would not obey it, and was informed that further action would be taken if she didn’t adhere to the rule. As a result, Gonzalez resigned.
The court found that allowing both supervisors and non-Spanish speaking employees within earshot to understand what was being said was a legitimate business decision, and that the rule was not enacted in order to discriminate against Spanish speakers. Although the plaintiff’s immediate supervisor was bilingual and would be able to monitor the “appropriateness” of conversations, the monolingual director could not. This is important, as it shows the discussion could be monitored, but not by everyone in a position of power and therefore was unacceptable. And again, there is the assumption that English is the magic wand that will boost morale and bring about peace. Citing Gloor, the court said that if customers and coworkers could overhear conversations, and the Spanish speakers were bilingual and could comply, it was not a violation of Title VII.
Link: page 23 from the following site:
And yet another case where the EEOC was over ruled by the courts. In this case, Latino tellers objected to a request from their supervisors not to speak Spanish at the bank except to assist Spanish-speaking customers, allegedly because they were creating a hostile environment by speaking Spanish in the presence of other employees. The EEOC claimed discrimination, but the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the case.....
Long v. First Union Bank 894 F. Supp. 933 (E.D. Va. 1995)
Four bilingual Latinos were tellers at a branch of First Union Bank. Informally, three of the plaintiffs were notified by the assistant vice president and the branch manager that they were not to speak Spanish unless it was to help a Spanish speaking customer. A memo was further released to all employees notifying them of the policy, saying “This all boils down to common courtesy. How would you feel is everyone around you were speaking and laughing aloud in a language you could not understand?” When three of the plaintiffs were assisting a Spanish speaking client, they claimed the branch manager told them they could only interact among themselves in English. After the EEOC found that the full-time English Only policy was discriminatory, the bank issued an apology and stated that language restrictions had been lifted prior to the EEOC ruling (simultaneous with replacing the branch manager with a Latina).
Citing Gloor, Garcia v. Spun Steak, and Gonzalez, the court found that there was no discrimination when bilingual employees could obey the rules and therefore were not disadvantaged. Conversing on the job is a privilege of employment and “the employer has a right to define the parameters of the privilege of employment.” The court accepted the bank’s justification that it was a business necessity to enact the policy in order to stop the tension created by some of the Latinos (admittedly) making fun of other employees in Spanish, and that it needed to be a full-time policy since these tensions would continue to exist during breaks and lunchtime, something explicitly forbidden by the EEOC.
Unfortunately, here is another case where the court decided it need not follow the EEOC Guidelines, which were created after Gloor had called for them. So while it cites Gloor as precedent, this court ignores the regulations that state a full-time policy is forbidden. Further, while some of the plaintiffs admitted that they spoke in Spanish about other employees so those employees couldn’t understand, the English Only rule seemed a draconian attempt to control some unruly employees. When plaintiff Baeza stated in her deposition testimony that she received “cold treatment” from her supervisors because she lodged an EEOC complaint, the court noted “Title VII does not protect employees from uncomfortable working environments… Bad manners or personal differences do not constitute harassment.” However, the court felt strongly enough that discomfort by non-Spanish speakers (and bad manners on the part of a few Spanish speakers) was worthy of instituting the English Only policy to curtail harassment.
Link: page 27 http://www.hawaii.edu/sls/uhwpesl/22(2)/Gibson.doc