Reply RESPONSE in (IRAC) ISSUE, RULE, ANALYSIS, and a CONCLUSION Question: Can an employee be discharged for speaking Spanish in the workplace? Explain.
Dr. Cacace is an urologist and Marge DeSantis is his office manager. Ms. Rosario, born in New Jersey of Puerto Rican ancestry, was hired in late June 1997 as a secretary/medical assistant. She was discharged in early August of the same year. One qualification for the job was fluency in Spanish because most of Dr. Cacace’s patients were Spanish speaking. Ms. Rosario is bilingual in Spanish and English. Another bilingual medical assistant, Bertha Aranzazu, was also employed in the office. Dr. Cacace speaks English and Spanish as well, as does his wife who also worked in the office and is of Hispanic origin. Ms. DeSantis was the only employee who was not proficient in both languages; she spoke and understood English only.
Ms. Rosario characterized Ms. DeSantis’s treatment of her as follows:
During my employment, at least once a week I was told on many occasions by Marge DeSantis not to speak Spanish on the job and on occasion not even speak Spanish to patients. One occasion, Marge DeSantis told me and another employee, “I am going to let one of you go because there is too much chitchat in Spanish I don’t understand.” It is a common custom among people of Spanish national origin to speak Spanish to each other. Bilinguals even combine English with Spanish. It just happens. I have always habitually done this and to this day I still do it and no employer I have ever worked for to this day has ever complained except Ms. DeSantis.
On or about August 5, 1997, DeSantis fired Rosario, telling her, “I’m sorry that I have to let you go like this because you are a nice girl and a quick learner, but I cannot have you speaking Spanish in my office.”