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In March of 2005, the manager of a Dunkin' Donuts in Yonkers, New
York, stirred some local controversy when he posted a sign inviting customers
to complain if they heard employees behind the counter speaking a
language other than English. A day later, the manager removed the sign,
responding to vociferous complaints that it amounted to discrimination.
While the mini-drama was not itself an unusual event-English-only rules
have become increasingly common in the American workplace-the episode
did not follow the predictable script. The manager, who acted on his
own, was himself a native Spanish speaker-an immigrant from Ecuador.
He claimed he had posted the sign in response to customer complaints
about employees behind the counter acting disrespectfully by speaking
Spanish in the presence of customers. But the outcry that prompted the
manager to remove the sign came not from the employees whose speech
had been curtailed, nor from groups representing their interests, but from
the very clientele the manager thought he had been serving. The people of
the neighborhood immediately denounced the policy as discriminatory,
coming to the defense of the Latino, Egyptian, and Filipino employees.
And while Dunkin' Brands, Inc. requires employees who interact with the
public to be fluent in English, the company immediately issued a statement
distancing itself from the manager's action, emphasizing that "having employees
that speak the languages of the local neighborhood ... can be a key
element in creating a hospitable environment." The company took no disciplinary
action against the manager, and the episode ended looking like
nothing more than a big misunderstanding.
Date of Authorship for this Version
language, workplace, Title VII