U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Co-Owner Harassed Hispanic Workers and Told Them Not to Speak Spanish, Federal Agency Charges
NEW YORK - Antonella's Restaurant and Pizzeria, Inc, JTA, Inc., and Grand Centro, three Italian restaurants located in Fishkill and Wappingers Falls, N.Y., created a hostile work environment for Hispanic employees because of their national origin, demanding that they only speak English, and firing one employee in retaliation for his complaint, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the lawsuit, the restaurants' co-owner on an almost daily basis subjected Hispanic workers to slurs because of their national origin, such as "f***" Spanish, Mexicans, Hispanics or landscapers. Additionally, the co-owner demanded that Hispanic employees speak only English in the workplace, and to illustrate his point, he took out a dollar bill from his wallet, held it, and told the Hispanic workers, "This is America, you must speak English." The lawsuit also claims that Hispanic workers were treated less favorably regarding leave and sick days. Finally, a Hispanic worker was fired for pretextual reasons the day after he complained about this mistreatment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits national origin discrimination and retaliation for the exercise of rights guaranteed under the statute. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Antonella's Restaurant and Pizzeria, Inc., et al, Case No. 15-cv-07666) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after first attempting to resolve the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process.
"When one of the owners regularly denigrates workers because of their national origin, it creates an environment that violates federal law as well as common decency," said Kevin Berry, district director of EEOC's New York District Office. "EEOC will vigorously enforce the law to remedy such harassment, particularly when the targets are vulnerable, low-wage workers."
EEOC Trial Attorney Jadhira Rivera added, "Since the harasser was an owner, the workers felt that they had no recourse but to endure the ill-treatment. We want to insure that all workers know they do not have to be subjected to slurs based on their national origin in order to keep their jobs."
Preventing workplace harassment through enforcement and targeted is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). Eliminating discriminatory practices affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights or reluctant to exercise them is another SEP priority.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website at www.eeoc.gov. EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and parts of New Jersey.