The state of California has filed a lawsuit against the popular clothing retailer Forever 21 for allegedly imposing a rule requiring its Spanish-speaking employees to speak only English at its flagship San Francisco store. According to the lawsuit filed this week, managers prohibited employees from speaking a language other than English during working hours, which includes the times where they greet, rest, and when they interact with Hispanic customers.
The lawsuit was filed by the Department of Employment and Fair Housing (DFEH) in San Francisco County Superior Court on Wednesday.
According to DFEH’s claim, when three Spanish-speaking employees complained about the English-only policy, their work hours were reduced and they were treated hostile by management.
The state of California prohibits discrimination against employees based on their background and, therefore, the incorporation and enforcement of rules that discriminate by language.
“Linguistic diversity is a business reality in the California workplace, and the department will carefully scrutinize English-only rules to ensure that all employees are treated equally, regardless of their national origin,” said Kevin Kish, director of DFEH.
According to a Forever 21 spokeswoman, the company has no comments on the pending litigation, but said, “Forever 21 is committed to diversity and inclusion in all of our stores and does not have any policies with regards to the language spoken in our stores.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation for damages done to affected employees and asks the company to establish and enforce measures to prevent discrimination.
The first hearing for this case is scheduled for August 30.