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Palm Springs restaurant reneges on English-only rule for employees

Management at Billy Reed’s in Palm Springs have reversed a policy and taken down a sign that said employees could only speak English to each other while working around customers.

“We are very sorry that we offended anybody. We regret it and we want to move forward,” says David Scott, General Manager of Billy Reed’s.

KESQ reported the story on Thursday when a busboy at the restaurant came forward saying he was afraid coworkers were going to get fired for speaking Spanish.

Management told us no one was in jeopardy of losing there jobs if they were caught speaking Spanish to each other.

“We put the sign up because everyone that works here speaks English and Spanish. We thought it would be better for the whole restaurant if in the dining area, where the customers are, if everyone spoke English,” says Scott.

Restaurant management told us they didn’t think the policy would be seen as racist or discriminatory.

“We didn’t look down the road at what we are posting. It wasn’t our intention we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” says Scott.

A small protest of just a few people was started outside Billy Reed’s Friday night.

“I have worked at places before where I was told not to speak Spanish because I’m in America, and I could relate to the people here,” says J. Patron who organized the protest.

“I had a lot of people hitting me up and they were talking about bringing American flags and hanging them upside down, but it’s not like that. It’s not a political issue,” says Patron.

Protesters dispersed after just a few minutes. No police were called.

Restaurant management told us the employee that came forward with complaint will not be punished.

Is it legal for employers to require workers not speak their native tongue?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless they are reasonably necessary to the operation of the business.

A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified.

An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.

Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.

Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it.

KESQ News Team

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