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“Normally, if a person gets fired working under NPEA, the part we're concerned about is whether or not they were given notice and whether or not if there was cause to fire them,”
Native Language Discrimination
Blake alleged that she was warned not to speak Navajo while on the job. Is this discriminatory?
“When I hear that my ears go up,”
“But if you ask me personally, yes.”
The EEOC says there's a difference between what is discriminatory and what is unlawful. Because Native language is associated with national origin, making employment decisions based on the use of that language is considered discriminatory.
“Because it's discriminatory doesn't mean its illegal under the laws we enforce,”
EEOC Senior Attorney Adviser Justine Lisser said.
But it sure was in a controversy 12 years ago involving four American Indian women who were terminated from their jobs at RD's Drive-In because they didn't agree to their employer's "No Navajo" policy.
The policy stated,
"The owner of this business can speak and understand only English. While the owner is paying you as an employee, you are required to use English at all times. The only exception is when the customer cannot understand English. If you feel unable to comply with this requirement, you may find another job."
Roxanne Cahoon, Ojibwe, and Diné workers Elva Begay, Doretta Benally and Freda Douglas filed a complaint with the EEOC when their employers, Richard and Shauna Kidman, asked all of their employees to consent to an English only rule. The EEOC then filed a national origin discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against RD's Drive-In and the women won their case along with back pay and other benefits.
“Overall, it depends on the facts of her case and what her situation is and if she believes something did happen, the place to start is the EEOC,”
“It's not right how I've been treated,”
Juanita Blake said.
“It was never really. I was always on time, I was always there for work. To me, it feels like, all that time for O'Reilly wasn't appreciated,”
“It's been really bugging me because I can't sleep at night. Emotionally and mentally, it really affected me.”
“We have to get the facts and the context,”
Stephen Scott with the Arizona Attorney General's Office said.
“We're in the business of figuring out people who were treated differently.”
Juanita Blake says she's been trying to make ends meet.
“It's hard getting by,”
“People have told me to take it to court, but I've not done it yet.”
“Based on that, we'll see if there's enough there to file a complaint, and we'll do an investigation,”
posted June 22, 2012 11:57 am edt