Salvation Army Responds to Complaint from EEOC on English Only Policy - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Salvation Army Responds to Complaint from EEOC on English Only Policy

May 18, 2007 -- Salvation Army attorney Kevin Hensley has responded to the complaint filed in United States District Court, District of Massachusetts against the Salvation Army.  In a complaint filed at the end of March the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says two Hispanic workers, one's national original is the Dominican Republic, and the other's is El Salvador) were subjected to discrimination by the Salvation Army "on the basis of their national origin (Hispanic) by requiring them to comply with Defendant's English-only rule, and terminating them because they failed to comply with its proficiency requirement, spoke Spanish in the workplace and were not fluent in speaking or understanding English."

The complaint says Dolores Escorbor and Maria Del Carmen Perdomo "both began work at Defendant's thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1999. Spanish is their native language and they both speak very little English."

In responding to the complaint Hensley denies the action is authorized and instituted pursuant to sections of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991.  The response denies "that the EEOC is authorized to bring this action by Title VII" of the United States Code.  Basically the answer by the philanthropic agency is "The complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted," and says "The defendant claims a trial by jury."  The answer basically denies any "unlawful employment practices."

Regarding specific charges alleged in the EEOC complaint, the answers in the court document filed Friday, May 18, 2007 are as follows: 

  • Concerning the complaint's statement that "At all relevant times, Defendant was an employer of Dolores Escorbor and Maria Del Carmen Perdomo," the filing says  "The defendant can neither admit nor deny the allegations in this paragraph, because in the context of these allegations, the phrase 'all relevant times' is too vague to permit a response."

  • Regarding a statement that "All conditions precedent to the institution of this lawsuit have been fulfilled," the Salvation Army answers, "The defendant is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations in the second sentence."

  • The answer says the Salvation Army doesn't have knowledge or information "sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations" in a paragraph that discusses the national origin of the two workers.

  • The answer admits the workers began work at a thrift store in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1999 but takes issue with the statement, "Spanish is their native language and they both speak very little English," from the complaint.  Hensely responds, "The defendant can neither admit nor deny the allegation in the second sentence because the phrase "very little English" is vague and undefined, except that the defendant admits that Spanish is the native language of both Escorbor and Perdomo."

  • Regarding the commendable work of the workers cited in the EEOC complaint - ""They both worked commendably and without incident for at least five years, relying on Spanish as their principal means of workplace communication in their jobs as clothes sorters," the answer from the charitable organization says, "The defendant can neither admit nor deny the allegation that Perdomo and Escorbar worked "commendably" because that term is vague and undefined. The defendant admits that there are no reported incidents in the employment files of Perdomo and Escorbar for the first five years of their employment, and admits that Perdomo and Escorbar relied on Spanish as their principal means of communication. The defendant denies that Perdomo and Escorbar worked exclusively as clothes sorters during the term of their employment."

  • Regarding the question of the English language policy raised as follows in the EEOC filing - "In 2004, Defendant decided to enforce a written English language policy at the Framingham store, which it had not previously enforced while Escorbor and Perdomo had been employed.  It delayed enforcement of the policy for at least a year.  During this year, employees who could not speak English adequately were told they needed to learn English, even though learning English was not a part of the written English language policy and was unrelated to the jobs they had been performing since 1999," the answer responds as follows:

"The first sentence and the second sentence are admitted.  The third sentence is denied, except that the defendant admits that employees who could not communicate in English were told that they needed to learn English in order to obtain at least a working knowledge of spoken English, and that all employees were given more than a year to demonstrate progress in learning English, and that requiring employees to demonstrate progress in learning English is not explicitly a part of its written English language policy."

  • The answer "denies as stated," the accusation that "On or about December 21, 2005, Defendant terminated both Escorbor and Perdomo for failing to learn English and for speaking Spanish. " The answer goes on to say "The defendant terminated Escorbar and Perdomo on or about December 21, 2005, for violating the English language policy contained in the defendant's employee handbook, and for their failure to make a good-faith effort to acquire a better working knowledge of English."

  • As to depriving the workers of equal employment opportunities stated as follows by the EEOC - "The effect of the practices complained of above has been to deprive Escorbor and Perdomo of equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees because of their national origin, and to inflict emotional pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation, and inconvenience upon Escorbor and Perdomo,"  the Salvation Army simply states "Denied."

  • The EEOC stated, "The unlawful employment practices complained of above were intentional."  The Salvation Army answer says simply, "The defendant denies that there were any unlawful employment practices, and therefore denies the allegations in this paragraph."

  • The EEOC complaint went on to further say, "The unlawful employment practices complained of above were done with malice or with reckless indifference to Escorbor's and Perdomo's federally protected rights."  Hensley answers, "The defendant denies that there were any unlawful employment practices, and therefore denies the allegations in this paragraph."

EEOC Regional Attorney Elizabeth Grossman had no comment regarding the filing of Friday's answer.  The Salvation Army's attorney, Kevin Hensley, said because the litigation is pending he was not able to comment beyond what was filed in the answer.

Reported by:  Helen Hammons

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