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EEOC sues Albertsons for alleged ‘no-Spanish’ policy

Lawsuit filed on behalf of Hispanic employees in San Diego

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Albertsons Cos. claiming the supermarket retailer violated federal law by implementing a no-Spanish policy for Hispanic employees in San Diego.

Filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, the suit charges Albertsons with subjecting the employees to harassment and a hostile work environment.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that, starting in late 2012, the retailer prohibited Hispanic employees in San Diego from speaking in Spanish around people who don’t speak the language, including when they talked to Spanish-speaking customers and during breaks. Managers publicly reprimanded Hispanic employees caught speaking Spanish, and — despite numerous employee complaints — no corrective action was taken, forcing employees to transfer, the EEOC contends.

Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Cos. didn’t respond to a request for comment on the EEOC lawsuit. However, a statement that the company released to the media said, “While we cannot comment on this pending litigation specifically, Albertsons 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.”

The EEOC said it filed the suit after attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement via its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages for the class of affected employees and injunctive relief.

"Employers have to be aware of the consequences of certain language policies," Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which covers San Diego County, said in a statement. "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."

The case information for the suit is EEOC v. Albertson's Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-00852-MMA-BGS.

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