Employees say they were told they can not speak Spanish in a San Antonio Call Center, even though part of their job is to speak Spanish. The company says it was a miscommunication.
"On Monday we started our training, we were happy," said a Call Center worker who asked not to be identified. It's what happened at training class that got this worker so upset. "All of a sudden we were interrupted. We were asked not to speak Spanish anymore."
Spanish is the language she was hired to speak, as a part of the call center's bilingual team.
"We were humiliated and we felt they tried to take away something that belongs to us, our roots," said the worker.
"The other supervisor comes in and says we can no longer speak in Spanish, because there's certain people in the classroom who didn't understand Spanish," said another Call Center worker who also asked not to be identified.
"It's called what they call language discrimination," said Adriaan Jansse, Attorney. Jansse says it falls under the Civil Rights Act, but there are exceptions for safety, security and business deals. "If there is a legitimate reason the employer might ask the employee not to speak the foreign language. It might be Chinese, Vietnamese, or Spanish, then the employer can actually ask for that," said Jansse.
We called Sears Headquarters and they released this statement: "Sears employs a diverse cross section of America and does not have a policy requiring English to be spoken in the workplace. This incident occurred during a training session in which the trainer asked the employees to communicate in English because she did not speak Spanish. We have re-communicated our practice of not requiring our associates to speak English in the workplace to both our management and our associates."
The workers say they went to Human Resources and they listened, but they wonder if the words they speak inside these walls will be taken seriously.
"They told us we could continue speaking Spanish but it does not feel the same because you don't know if this is going to be taken against you," said the worker.