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¡Que chiste! Bilingual staffer fired for speaking Spanish

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

When Ana Mateo was hired as a bilingual secretary for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), she never imagined her Spanish fluency would be her downfall.

However, she claims school officials specifically told her not to speak to students’ parents in Spanish. She did anyway, noting that one-third of the students at Devonshire Elementary School where she worked are Hispanic. She said speaking Spanish with the parents was the most effective way to communicate.

After being warned several times to stop, Mateo says she was forced to resign in 2008.

Mateo filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC citing the English-only policy as evidence of an anti-Spanish speaking bias. The EEOC investigated and found evidence to support Mateo’s claim.

CMS has denied that it ever had an “English-only” policy, and refused to settle the case. Mateo has now filed her complaint in federal court.

Note: Employers that implement English-only policies must have a sound business reason for doing so. The EEOC will look askance at any reason other than workplace safety. That is not to say there can’t be other reasons; they are just tough sells.

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