SAN ANTONIO – 5:35 P.M. WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 26, 2018 UPDATE: "At no time did the Resort have a written nor verbal policy that restricted the use of speaking native languages. Mr. Spomer’s quoted statement was referring to sensitivity training in 2014, the aim of which was to increase cross-cultural awareness and improve relationships between managers, staff and guests." - La Cantera Resort
Editor's Note: At the bottom of this article is a statement issued in both English and Spanish on behalf of Destination Hotels.
ORIGINAL STORY:The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the operators or the La Cantera Resort & Spa, alleging that they are violating federal law by punishing employees for speaking Spanish on the job. Former employees and management are both coming forward to tell their side of the story.
“We strongly dispute the claims,” said John Spomer, vice president and managing director of the resort, on Tuesday
Among the 21 employees named in the lawsuit are Sergio Vitela and his father, Guillermo. They claim that the resort operators would not allow them to speak Spanish on the job, not even to each other.
“Every time I would try to talk to (my father), they would tell me, ‘Hey, you can't speak Spanish,'" Sergio Vitela said. "I would cry. It would be devastating. It was hard, very hard."
Although Sergio Vitela was eventually fired, his father still works at the resort. He is troubled by the policy.
“I don’t understand why they don’t let me speak my language,” Guillermo Vitela said.
Spomer said that the policy is in place out of consideration for the property's guests.
“If you’re speaking a language I don’t understand, I might wonder if you’re speaking about me or I just wonder what’s being said,” Spomer said.
Somer said that employees who violated the policy were counseled and termination was a last resort.
The lawsuit asks that the employees be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, and if they’ve been fired, it asks that they be reinstated.
The resort has not filed a response in federal court to the lawsuit. No date has been set for a hearing.