La Cantera Resort and Spa to Pay Over $2.5 Million to Settle EEOC National Origin Discrimination Suit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Resort implemented strict rules forbidding Spanish and retaliated against workers when they complained, Federal Agency Says

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - The former operators of the La Cantera Resort and Spa have agreed to pay $2,625,000 to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.  The EEOC's lawsuit alleged that the operators of the La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting Hispanic banquet staff to a hostile work environment based on their national origin and by retaliating against workers who opposed a restrictive language policy.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, after assuming control of the resort, La Cantera's new managers sub­jected at least 25 Hispanic banquet employees to verbal abuse and mistreatment because of their national origin. In describing the mistreatment, the EEOC's complaint alleged that the managers had implemented and harshly enforced a policy forbidding banquet staff from speaking Spanish at anytime and anywhere in the resort. One of the managers allegedly referred to Spanish as "a foul language" and used derogatory terms when referring to Hispanics. The lawsuit alleged that when banquet employees raised concerns about these practices, the employer retaliated against some by demoting and firing them and replacing them with non-Hispanic employees. The EEOC claimed that as a direct result of the discrimination and retaliation, the formerly all-Hispanic senior management group in the banquet department was reduced to having no Hispanic managers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on national origin, including harassment and retaliation, forbids such alleged conduct. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division (EEOC v. DH San Antonio Management, LLC. et al., Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00990) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

"An employee working in the U.S. should not have to fear being fired, demoted or subjected to discipline because his or her family tree has roots in another country, said Robert Canino, the regional attorney for the Dallas District Office of the EEOC. "San Antonio, Texas is an environment rich with cross-cultural communication. Beyond the requirements of the law, business patrons might also appreciate a service industry that reflects that diversity."

The two-year consent decree resolving this case, approved by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, requires La Cantera and its successors to pay monetary damages of $2,625,000; to post a notice of intent to comply with Title VII; and to provide training to La Cantera's employees informing them of their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The consent decree resolving this case also provides for La Cantera's revision of policies regarding the use of languages other than English in the workplace.

EEOC Trial Attorney Philip Moss stated, "English-only workplace policies can be discriminatory and foster a hostile environment when implemented with the intent to silence foreign languages in the workplace or manufacture a reason to discipline persons who are not native English speakers."

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez of the EEOC's San Antonio Field Office said, "We are pleased that in addition to the monetary compensation, La Cantera agreed to provide additional training for its employees and human resources staff on national origin discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. La Cantera has also committed to revise its policies to ensure that their employees are not subject to language discrimination." 

The San Antonio Field Office is part of the EEOC's Dallas District Office which is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litiga­tion in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

Many of the class members were also represented by private counsel of the Espinoza Law Firm, PLLC of San Antonio, Texas.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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