La Cantera Resort and Spa staff punished, fired for speaking Spanish, feds allege

Resort and spa management responds to discrimination claims

Courtesy: La Cantera Resort and Spa

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 is suing the operators of the La Cantera Resort and Spa after they said the operators violated federal law by subjecting their Hispanic employees to harassment and discriminatory discipline.

The operators of the resort, DH San Antonio Management LLC and Destination Hotels and Resorts LLC, are accused of forbidding Hispanic banquet employees from speaking Spanish anywhere at the resort at any time.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court Monday, states operators took over in December 2013 and implemented the English-only policy change in the fall of 2014. 

“We have taken measures to establish what we call a professional, yet aware, language practices, which again, means be aware who is in proximity … If you're speaking a language I don't understand, I might wonder if you're speaking about me or just wondering what's being said. So we've continued to reinforce that, so that can get cloudy in someone's mind. I guess that's reasonable,” said John Spomer, vice president and managing director of La Cantera Resort and Spa. 

WEB EXTRA: La Cantera Resort and Spa management responds to discrimination claims

Resort operators hired Will Primavera and Kathleen Bischoff to enforce the unwritten policy on the banquet department staff, the lawsuit states.

The complaint states Bischoff referred to Hispanic employees using a derogatory term and called Spanish a "foul language," while Primavera allegedly mocked employees' accents.

The lawsuit alleges the operators allowed people of other national origins to speak their native languages, but forbade Hispanic employees from speaking Spanish.

When more than two dozen banquet employees spoke out in opposition of the discriminatory practice, some had their employment terminated and were replaced with non-Hispanic employees, the lawsuit states.

The commission said other employees were subject to "harassment, excessive scrutiny, difficult work assignments, discipline and demotion."

EEOC regional attorney Robert A. Canino condemned the alleged behavior and language policy.

“Imposing a language policy -- together with demeaning references to Hispanic workers – strongly indicates workplace prejudice rather than a legitimate business need,” Canino said.

The EEOC said the allegations are in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Federal attorneys are asking that the employees subject to the alleged behavior be awarded compensatory and punitive damages and be rehired. The lawsuit also requests that the operators commit to eradicating "any further discriminatory practices."