The Espinoza Law Firm joined the EEOC on behalf of 24 plaintiffs in multi-million dollar claim against resort management for policies and procedures designed to discriminate against Spanish-speaking Hispanics. After one year of litigation, the resort agrees to pay $2.6 million to settle the suit.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS (November 5, 2019) – The Espinoza Law Firm, PLLC, announced today that the former operators of the La Cantera Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas have agreed to pay $2,625,000 to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit. On September 26, 2018, the Espinoza Law Firm, on behalf of 24 employees, joined a federal lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) citing discrimination and retaliation against these employees on the basis of race, color, and national origin, which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit alleged that the operators of the La Cantera Resort discriminated against Hispanic banquet staff and subjected them to a hostile work environment by prohibiting them from speaking in their native language, Spanish.
According to the lawsuit, after assuming control of the resort, La Cantera’s new managers subjected at least 25 Hispanic banquet employees (Class Members) to verbal abuse and mistreatment because of their national origin. In describing the mistreatment, the complaint alleged that the managers had implemented and harshly enforced a policy forbidding banquet staff from speaking Spanish at anytime and at any place in the resort. The Defendants’ unwritten English-only policy prohibited employees from speaking any language other than English while at work. This Policy was in effect on the entire property, including both the “front” and the “back of the house,” as well as on employee breaks, and regardless of whether patrons were nearby. According to the suit, employees were frequently scolded and threatened with termination for speaking Spanish, even when the individuals present were all Spanish-speaking.
According to the complaint, after many of the Class Members communicated their concerns about the English-only policy, the Defendants retaliated against Class Members. This retaliation included verbal warnings, documented disciplinary counseling or “write-ups,” demotions and, for some Class Members, termination and replacing them with non-Hispanic employees. In response to complaints about the English-only policy, one of the managers allegedly referred to Spanish as “a foul language” and used derogatory terms when referring to Hispanics. According to the complaint, Defendants’ Human Resources Director stated, “[t]his is America, so speak English! What’s the problem?” After this incident, enforcement of the English-only policy increased.
The lawsuit alleged that when Defendants initially began to manage La Cantera, each of the Banquet Captains, the Assistant Manager, and the Director of Banquets were Hispanic. After the first year of Defendants’ management, there were no remaining Hispanic employees in senior management positions in the Banquet Department.
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 suit was filed in the 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-009900) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process. On November 1, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Jason Pulliam approved a two-year consent decree, resolving the case. The consent decree requires La Cantera and successors to pay monetary damages of $2,625,000; to post a notice of intent to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and also requires La Cantera to revise its policies regarding the use of languages other than English in the workplace.
Lead trial attorney Javier Espinoza stated, “[h]aving come from a family where Spanish is our first language and where much of my family only speaks Spanish, this case hit close to home and reinvigorated my passion to fight for the victimized. I’m proud of our clients for having the courage to stand up to their employer when they feared for their jobs, their reputation in the industry, and their livelihood – theirs was not an easy decision, and this was not an easy case. I’m satisfied that the outcome will serve as a deterrent to other employers in this city, this state, and hopefully the nation.”
Javier Espinoza will be available all day to answer questions from the press and coordinate client interviews.
About the Espinoza Law Firm
The Espinoza Law Firm is a boutique litigation firm dedicated to helping Texas workers who have been wronged in any way. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge and experience in litigating, trying and arbitrating civil work injury and employment cases. Our team has years of experience and practices in civil litigation of all types. For more information please visit our website at www.espinozafirm.com or call 210.229.1300 or 877.229.3232.