Atticus charged with discrimination

In January, Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street implemented a policy requiring employees to speak English when interacting with customers, but the policy was repealed last week.
In January, Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street implemented a policy requiring employees to speak English when interacting with customers, but the policy was repealed last week. Photo by Daniel Carvalho.

A showdown over race and discrimination is brewing at Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street.

In an announcement recently released to Atticus’s employees that opened with “Here we speak English,” the café’s management forbade employees from using foreign languages within earshot of customers. The policy, obtained by the News, further specified that employees could only speak Spanish in the prep and dishwasher areas.

The New Haven Workers Association, a group of local labor leaders and activists, condemned the policy as discriminatory Tuesday, as did Ward 15 Alderman Joseph Rodriguez on Thursday. Now the association and Rodriguez are demanding that Atticus repeal the policy and rehire a worker who they say was fired for challenging it.

But in a statement issued Thursday evening, Atticus’s management maintained that the policy was an “appropriate way to be most helpful to our customers.” The store’s management declined to comment further.

Deborah Malatesta, a member of the New Haven Workers Association, said she was first contacted about 10 days ago by two Atticus employees who complained that the English-only rule was racist and discriminatory.

“It’s discriminatory, outright,” Malatesta said in a phone interview Thursday night. “People shouldn’t be told what language to speak — employees should be given the same respect as patrons or owners.”

Malatesta said she had originally planned to bring up the issue at the association’s Tuesday night meeting. But when a Hispanic employee was fired on Monday, allegedly for challenging the policy, Malatesta said action became the focus of the Tuesday meeting.

So on Wednesday the association sent an e-mail criticizing the policy to community groups, including the New Haven Labor Council and Unidad Latino en Accion, which forwarded the message to several aldermen. Rodriguez, who represents Fair Haven, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, called Atticus’s decision divisive and troubling.

“I want the staff at Atticus to know that I stand with them in condemning the offensive tone and language used by the Atticus management,” he said in a statement released Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, Atticus owner Charles Negaro said he was sorry if news reports about the language policy had offended anyone. He said the policy’s purpose is to improve customer service, adding that Atticus offers free English lessons to all employees.

None of the half dozen customers interviewed at Atticus Thursday approved of the policy, calling it either discriminatory or “just plain ridiculous.”

Malatesta said the New Haven Workers Association and other opponents of the language policy are planning to stand outside Atticus at noon Saturday and distribute leaflets condemning the policy. Upon reading Atticus’ statement Thursday night, Malatesta said she was very surprised that Negaro had not backed down from the policy.

“Oh, wow,” she said as she read the statement. “We’re certainly going to continue organize against that.”

Atticus manager Jean Recapet told the News in October that the restaurant had 35 employees representing almost 10 countries and that 23 of his employees came from Hispanic countries.

Comments

  • Hospitality vs.Freedom?

    “We only speak English here” is highhanded and arrogant.

    There is a larger issue here than racism and that is hospitality. When your hosts have a private language which they use in addition to the prevalent language of the culture, it leads one to wonder if the guests are being satirized to their faces without their knowing it.

    I once attended a party hosted by a Ivy League faculty person. The adult child of the host and his father visiting from
    Serbia spent the entire party alternating languages since the father spoken little English. The result was
    unsettling.

    Political correctness requires that the rudeness of Atticus’s memo be addressed. Economic survival might require that hospitality trump bilingual expresiveness.

    PK
    M.Div.’80

  • Hieronymus

    Atticus? ATTICUS?!

    Wow…

    Oh, and speaking of English: past tense of “forbid” is “forbade” (‘az a shoutout to y’all prescriptionists out dere, yo!).

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it good for employees to learn english? Frankly i find it insulting when i find employees chattering away in a language that I dont understand me, ignoring me. For all i know they could be laughing at me. So the eng policy in the earshot of customers is a good one. these people need to stop crying wolf -and I was born outside of the US and am a non native speaker of english

  • dk

    I also think that hospitality should be the primary issue. There’s an argument for speaking other languages for clarity of work-related communication, but it should be done with an awareness of how it compromises hospitality. Atticus is a public cafe. Its employees should conduct themselves with that in mind. They are already unfriendly at times as it is, snapping at customers in English, then turning to each other and laughing in Spanish.

  • anonymous

    English is the primary language of the United States, and store owners should have the right to ensure the customer service experience they want for their business. So what’s the big deal?

  • Yale 08

    Does Atticus exist for the employees or for the customers?

    Your answer to that question tells me everything I will need to know about your political/economic beliefs.

  • ’12

    I find it interesting that the report paints the policy as “utterly ridiculous,” yet all of the comments found here support the policy.

    I don’t think it’s too much to ask service employees in the United States to speak English at the workplace. Also, the reporters should attempt at least a slight measure of objectivity.

  • Goldie ’08

    wow I agree with PK for once

  • Pierson ’10

    Once again, I’m pleasantly surprised at how sane the YDN comments are on an article where the writers made something seem like a travesty. (See also: Sissies t-shirt) I’ll definitely be stopping by Atticus more often now.

  • alum78

    So Rodriguez finds the policy divisive? How does he feel about the large number of illegal immigrants in Fair Haven who openly disregard the law. Think that isn’t divisive? How does he feel about the large number of unregistered and uninsured motor vehicles in his ward. The legal taxpayers in the city have to register thier vehicles and pay taxes. The workers at Atticus came here for economic stability and a better life. The least they could do is use the language of thier adopted country and that of a majority of the customers. Maybe they’d like it better if the menus were changed to spanish and we could guess as to what we were ordering. This pc stuff in New Haven really has to stop. It get to a point where it’s beyond absurd.

  • yale11

    Honestly, I don’t know if this is racist or taking it too far, but Atticus is a PRIVATE business, and have the right to impose these kinds of rules. If the employees don’t like it, they have every right to quit their jobs — I’m sure there are many others out there who would gratefully replace them.

  • Cole

    Wow, I’m with Pierson…very nonplussed with the article written (seems like a reasonable policy to me, and one that must be in effect in many, many other establishments), but most of the comments are fair and intelligent. Talking with some non-native Hispanic friends today and they expressed bewilderment that anyone would be against the policy: “I don’t need anyone to look out for me, or give me a break,” said one.

  • no more atticus for me

    As a bilingual English and Spanish speaker, perhaps I can put the insecure fears of those who feel they are being ridiculed and threatened by “the secret language of Spanish” to rest. No one is making fun of you while you order your sandwich. And the assumption that the workers don’t use the English language at all is foolish- if you’ve been to Atticus you know that. To declare that it is forbidden for them to speak Spanish amongst each other is racist and appalling, as are many of your comments.

  • yale1994

    Spanish is more “American” that the Pilgrims… in fact, Spanish came first…stop fighting the reality, stop that provincial-redneck-English-only stupidity…

  • CB

    I applaud and support the owners for their English only policy. In an AMERICAN business the language spoken should be ENGLISH. If the policy offends you you’re free to do business elsewhere. I for one prefer to support a business where I don’t hear Spanish be spoken. Good job Atticus, keep up the good work.

  • Mr. G.

    HOW can all you “so called” AMERICANS be so DUMBED DOWN and not respect the owners Charles Negaro of Atticus?

    To me it is an OUTRAGE…………..

    This country has surrendered to a very well planed Spanish lobby ( take a look @ MIAMI / TEXAS / LA ) that will eventually surpass the language of the country = ENGLISH.

    Are you ALL so blind as not to see what has happened here in the USA for the last 60 years as I have?

    By the way I had to learn English @ age 10yo. When I immigrated from Europe ( Austro-Hungary / Romania.

  • Yale ’08

    As a gringo who prefers to (try and) speak fluent spanish whenever the chance arises, I’m very disappointed that Atticus, a SPANISH-owned store, with a MAJORITY spanish-speaking workforce, would act this way. Oh, and ‘anonymous’ (#3 and #5), if you feel so insecure about people speaking another language behind your back or in front of your face, might I suggest you learn another language, other than American, so that you too may participate in the globalization that is leaving you behind (and your opinion irrelevant).

  • Seriously?

    Man y’all people are selfish. Customer service? Since when are coffee shops and bookstores suppose to massage your ego and make you feel better about yourself. Stop caring so much what other people are saying. It doesn’t stop them from thinking it and that is truly what should matter to you. If you only care if somebody says it to your face that is superficial. Deal with it people

  • Yale 08

    Last I checked, an employer is more than within its right to ask employees to maintain certain conduct while on the job if said conduct can reasonably be shown to serve a business necessity (e.g., support the comfort level of patrons). Under the circumstances, this policy seems sufficiently well-grounded.

    Nevertheless, I read an ulterior motive in this policy based on the article’s concluding paragraph:

    “Atticus manager Jean Recapet told the News in October that the restaurant had 35 employees representing almost 10 countries and that 23 of his employees came from Hispanic countries.”

    If this language policy is intended to keep Atticus off the short-list for ICE’s next New Haven raid, it is unlikely to prove effective, particularly given all the publicity that has resulted from the effort.

  • by 2012

    I agree with 2011: Atticus has the right to do what it is going to do, since it is privately owned, even if the policy seems myopic, and quite frankly, very backward with regard to capital. This policy has yet to take into consideration that some of the folks who frequent the coffee shop are Spanish speakers who enjoy speaking Spanish with the employees (me, for example) or people who want to test out their linguistic skills, as one reader mentioned above. So, the policy does not only circumscribe the employees but also customers who enjoy speaking Spanish with the employees at Atticus. This is unfortunate, and quite frankly, very petty. Also, I frequent the place a lot, and it is not as if these employees do not speak English, or the native tongue, as one reader suggested above. They speak it well enough to keep the Atticus machine running on cheap labor. The notion of indigeneity does raise a set of historical questions of our national language, though, doesn’t it?

  • Xeno

    AAAAAHHHHH!!! MEXICANS ARE TAKING OVER THE COUNTRY!!!!! SECURE THE BORDER!!!!!!!!!

  • dan

    It’s a question of the tactfulness and/or intent of the memo.

    If it is a question of etiquette, the etiquette of when to chat in Spanish should have been explained. People aren’t stupid – they can handle concepts.

    This memo would tend to intimidate the workers so that a bilingual customer glad for the opportunity to order in Spanish would get a nervous response from a waiter and might not know why.

    the memo is not clearly not discriminatory.

  • Holden Caulfield’s Death of Etiquette

    These posts area diagram of what has happened over the last 50 years in the guise of political correctness: the death of etiquette.

    We are a rude world today, but man (or woman) are we “liberated” (from politeness, among other things. In an attempt to eliminate the “phoniness” Holden Caulfield abhorred, we have become authentically abrasive.
    PK

  • @ Seriously?

    Actually, a lot of coffee shops and bookstores are probably successful precisely because they massage your ego and make you feel better about yourself. Maybe it’s not a requirement, but it seems like a better idea than doing the reverse.

  • Recent Alum

    Are said employees even U.S. citizens?

  • Yale Alum

    I’m no employment lawyer, but I did take a course in this area. English-only policies are bad PR and likely a suboptimal way to reach the outcomes sought by management. But policies that are only partial bans on speaking other languages in the workplace are not necessarily discriminatory or illegal. The EEOC website gives a more nuanced view of this issue at: http://www.eeoc.gov

  • Ferny

    There should be an expectation that if the worker is talking to a customer, they should use the English language.

    I personally like going to places where they know I’m going to use Spanish – it’s a nice cultural touch after spending all day working and talking in English.

    However, the idea that interactions between employees should be limited in language, particularly since ‘earshot’ is so vague, IS ridiculous. Not only does it promote an actively hostile workforce, it also makes it less efficient.

    I’ve worked in the past with a large Hispanic workforce and our familarity in Spanish made us work better because we could switch languages as necessary, particularly since comfort level is connected to speed.

    I don’t understand this obsession to ban the Spanish language. If you can’t adjust to the fact that people would like to speak other kinds of languages with each other, a conversation one doesn’t need to be a part of, then the problem is with you.

    If this was a demand to make the Atticus menu all Spanish or even present Spanish, then we have a different circumstance. However, the interaction between two individuals in a relationship that is not power-based should not have language regulations to it. It is that simple.

  • Customer

    I’ve seen the owner speak loudly in French there of a morning… Is he going to stop doing that too?

  • Joe

    I think Yale has too many Jews. We need affirmative action for gentiles.

  • Joe

    I think an English only lasw would pass if it were on the ballot in CT. Alot of hispanics support English only too.

  • Yale alum/New Haven resident

    I have always loved Atticus and have had wonderful experiences with the staff. Customer service there has always been great, so I don’t understand people saying that this is an issue of customer service. Prior to this new policy, customer service was great. Employees speaking Spanish amongst themselves never detracted from the customer service there because the employees are truly dedicated to serving the customer.

    Anyone who feels insecure about having employees speak a non-English language in their presence needs to realize that we live in a multicultural, multilingual society. But, even if such customers exist, most of Atticus’ customers probably don’t care at all if employees speak Spanish with each other. I know that none of my Yale friends cared about it when we were students. I certainly don’t care what language the employees speak amongst themselves, as long as I’m able to communicate to them what I want to order.

  • y12

    The commenting on this article is ridiculous and I’m sure does not reflect the general opinion at Yale or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems to always be the bigots who jump to respond to things like this.

    This is an issue of workplace discrimination. It endangers the jobs of a specific ethnic group. Its unacceptable, and I’m glad various forces in New Haven (described in the article) are standing up for the rights of the workers at Atticus.

  • some facts

    To announce this as a blanket policy does sound like the owner has a strange personality… but I can attest that often the Spanish-language comments heard in a primarily Anglo environment are, in fact, rude comments about the customers.

  • Tanner

    Perhaps the city should demand Atticus that they have a language of the day policy along with their coffee of the day.
    Of course they would have to hire a person for each language and budget a subsidy to Atticus for the business they lose when the number of linguistic scholars shopping at Atticus fails to pay the rent. Hmm I think there might be some Stimulus cash around for that.

  • Yale CC ’08

    I always loved coming to Atticus because of the Latino pride, and the way it added and testified to the cultural milieu of New Haven.

    Honestly, what’s with the fear of another language creeping up alongside English? I simply don’t understand how a country that wants to reap the benefits of economic globalization, can make such an effort to stymie the inevitable rise of cultural globalization.

    Spanish, French and English were all predominant languages during our colonial era. Spanish remained strong in areas around the border of Central America and became even more widespread after waves of legal immigration into many American cities. Now it is the second most spoken language in the US by a hefty margin.

    So the xenophobic backlashes on this board leave me nonplussed and dismayed.

  • Michael Vendetto

    I support the management of Atticus Bookstore and Cafe for instructing their employees to speak English while being paid by them. I have seen people who speak english as well as spanish start speaking spanish so as to exclude the english only speaking person(s) from understanding what’s being said. It is rude and makes people feel uncomfortable , particularly in a working atmosphere. I think many people have experienced this and in a mixed workplace this actually causes division and hurts buisness. So , if you can’t abide by a buisness owners policy you should find another job. If anything it’s the english only speaking person who is being discriminated against when the bi-lingual person switches languages to exclude person(s) from understanding , particularly in a buisness where “teamwork” is important amongst staff for financial success. That’s what’s going on here. Unless , of coarse a customer only speaks one language , then it’s appropiate.

  • JoethePlumber

    I just can’t wait for the system to collapse and the civil war to start, like what happens in most multi-ethnic nations with bad economies. Then it will be survival of the fittest.

  • R

    I can’t believe these hispanics are actually complaining about having to speak English. In more and more states you have to a citizen to have a job and speaking English is mandatory. Wait until the republican landslide in 2010 and E verify goes national. ;-) They will really have something to complain about.

  • JetsFan

    German used to be the second most common language in the USA. However two world wars changed that. Germans were forcibly assimilated and made to speak English. I don’t see any sympathy for German speakers from the Yale hypocrite crew.

  • anonymous

    i love the food at atticus but i’ve stopped eating there because the service is miserable to the point of hostility.
    i don’t care what language the employees there speak, i just wish service there didn’t suck. speaking english or spanish or french or whatever is not at all related to taking an order accurately and then delivering food in a timely manner.

  • Yale ’08

    JetsFan, go home! Your analogy is baseless and way out of context. German was never used to the extent that Spanish is today in America.

    More importantly, we aren’t in a WW-era world anymore, now are we? How do you think ‘forcing’ non-native speakers to ‘assimilate’ is going to make America more adaptive to change in the 21st century? How about more competitive? Don’t you think it’s a bit sad that the US is one of the few countries in the world where students and citizens can coast through life knowing only one language?

    It explains a lot actually.

  • Immigration mess

    Wouldn’t a solution to the immigration mess be to create a new category in the route to citizenship: longterm visitor.

    Such a person would have to pay his/her own social security and health insurance. If granted citizenship, his/her payments would be credited retroactively toward maturity (26 working quarters is required to be vested in Social Security I believe.)

    To hound people out of this country in police “raids” seems inhumane, if not gestapo-like, especially if they have children who were born here.

    Can’t the brains at Yale Law School offer a solution to this mess, a mess which provides so much fodder to the right-wing element?

    PK

  • Jetsfan

    Immigration enforcement is “gestapo” like ? Didn’t you know FDR and Eisenhower deported every single illegal alien in the 1940’s and 50’s ? Look up operation “Wetback”.

  • Yale ’08

    JetsFan-

    Once again a misplaced analogy. How does operation Wetback in anyway legitimate state anti-immigration practices today? And how does it all relate to the more symbolic and basic issue at hand: the remaining xenophobia in a multicultural America?

    Is it 1940’s America?

  • Pool those Law School Brains

    Jetfan:

    I thank you. Just looked it up.

    Sorry to say that 1954 was before television news became ubiquitous, and at age 11, I didn’t read the NYT. Ethnocentrism made Texas seem like another country up here in Connecticut in the 50’s. Even now,in Vermont, sorry to say.

    But when Immigration officals raid a Vermont farm in 2009, I pay attention.

    I still call for a modification and a solution (permananet visitor?) It can be made less attractive by making BENEFITS the total responsibility of the visitor, but EMPLOYMENT legal. Visitor’s Social Security to be put in ESCROW until citizenship is granted whereupon it would be applied retroactively.

    C’mon Yale Law School: Put those brains together and offer a solution. You GOT PULL in the State Department these days!

    PK

  • International student

    I honestly don’t know why everything is always seen as discrimination in the US (yes I know there are historical reasons but still). Yes of course it is targeted at non-native speakers, but why is that such a bad thing? In Europe this would never be an issue, in fact in the country were I’m from (in central Europe, which I won’t disclose as I would be easy to identify given the low number of students from there) policies like these are common in businesses.
    It is also very unprofessional to talk a foreign language in front of a customer (in general, you should not talk about your private matters when customers are around no matter in what language). This has nothing to do with xenophobia, its simply rude. Consider an employee whispering something to another employee. You would feel uneasy as you have no idea what they are saying. Using a foreign language amounts to the same thing.

  • If the French can do it…

  • Dollarphobia

    #44:
    I’m not sure it’s xenophobia as much a dollarphobia. People are afraid of the dollars which seemingly “go out the window” to those who haven’t “earned” them. Hence my call for a “permananet visitor” status which requires visitor workers to make payments to Social Security, to be held in escrow and invested by the government until citizenship is granted (if ever).

    PK

  • @#41/44

    Actually German was extensively used prior to WWI. Check out the book on Language and Politics by Thomas Ricento. The way German-Americans were treated and forcibly assimilated was not right, but its indicative of the little sympathy our society has for other ethnic/linguistic groups.

    Why is it no one cares about the other 12 employees at Atticus that speak other foreign languages? Don’t they feel excluded when the Hispanic workers start babbling on in Spanish? Doesn’t that make for a hostile working environment? The forced use of English isn’t meant to wipe out the usage of Spanish (and its not xenophobic), its just practical considering everyone speaks different languages.

  • ES

    Bravo, Atticus. They are not removing the employees’ right to speak Spanish or whatever language they wish in the privacy of their own homes, merely their right to speak it at work. Atticus is an American store that serves American customers, and its employees ought to learn English. Of course there will be a learning curve/process of language acquisition, but basically: if you want to hold a job in America, you need to commit to speaking English. It’s as simple as that. We are an English-speaking country and in order to function within mainstream American society and commerce, you need to speak English, and if you feel as if your civil rights are being infringed upon by that fact you ought not to have moved here in the first place. Some assimilation is necessary. Thank you, Atticus.

  • @ Dollarphobia

    Right on. I think you hit the nail on the head with that one. But honestly, dollarphobia is somewhat justified. With the employment crisis facing Americans today (especially young ones) it seems unfair in the extreme for precious jobs to go to illegal immigrants who do not pay the taxes the rest of us do, and it adds insult to injury if they do not interact with customers in English (which should be a a basic requirement of almost ALL jobs in America).

  • TDer

    #46: “It is also very unprofessional to talk a foreign language in front of a customer…”

    This statement is meaningless. The United States has no official language, so no language here is any more foreign than any other, or any more “native” than any other. Except, of course, for the genuine Native American languages, which are all but extinct.

    I’m sure some genius will interpret that as a call for the resurrection of Navajo or something equally idiotic. It’s not. But stop basing your comments on a perceived baseline language. The United States does not have one and never has had one.

    #50: “Atticus is an American store that serves American customers, and its employees ought to learn English”

    Funny, I was there last week, and I’m pretty sure there were a number of non-American customers. Seemed like Atticus was happy to take their money too. A couple of them had the temerity to conduct their conversation in an Asiatic language!

    “…if you want to hold a job in America, you need to commit to speaking English. It’s as simple as that. We are an English-speaking country and in order to function within mainstream American society and commerce, you need to speak English.”

    From a practical point of view, I agree. Retaining the language you came with helps to keep you from certain parts of mainstream America. I think there’s a huge incentive to learn, but maybe we should remember that we’re often talking about people who did not have access to the educational resources available to us. Learning a new language as an adult is no stroll in the park.

  • anonymous

    #17 perhaps you can’t read English? Only American? I said I was a non-native speaker of English – I happen to speak several other languages, just not SPANISH. When I do talk in my native language with others, I make sure to do so in a manner that is not disrespectful to anyone around who might be there. But I have also seen how such conversations can be used to mock others who dont speak that language.

  • Another form of discrimination

    Isn’t this policy discriminatory against non-English-speaking customers, if not employees? It seems that the policy would prevent an employee from taking a customer’s order in Spanish. When a large number of the employees speak Spanish, it doesn’t make sense that a Spanish-speaking customer would be required to order in English instead.

  • caff

    I don’t care what language they speak. The fact is some of the Atticus serving staff just don’t want business. They don’t look you in the eye when they speak. They don’t return greetings. They say “you’re welcome” in a tone that says “get lost.” And as soon as they step away they’re oh-so-friendly with their colleagues behind the bar.

    It’s like they want the tip, but don’t want the customer.

  • @52

    Actually several states have English as the official language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_the_United_States). Ok CT is not one of them but English is still the de facto official language as many legal texts are written in English and most government agencies use English (some states do have Spanish and/or French as further de facto official languages, but CT is not one of them). I have never heard of a public school in CT where Spanish is the language of instruction in classes like calculus and biology. Clearly English is the de facto (your arguement is only valid for de jure offical languages) of most US states including CT. I think that we need to consider the de facto official language as only considering what the de jure official language is nonsense. For example nobody would say “Tokyo is not the capital of Japan”, however if we apply your strict de jure logic then Tokyo indeed is not the capital of Japan as it is the de jure capital only.

  • 2011

    I don’t get it. People are complaining because they are worried that the employees are taking a hit. Fair enough. But why boycott the store and cafe. That just seems stupid if the ultimate goal is the welfare of the employees. Boycotting the store will cause revenues to decline. To raise profits again the store only has one option: cut costs…. how do they do that? Fire employees.
    So if you want to help the employees of the store don’t boycott it, all you are doing is increasing their chance of unemployment

  • liz

    I used to love to study at Atticus because I could practice my Spanish and hear Spanish that I could actually understand. Second- they have an open kitchen and I’d like to see one kitchen in New Haven where Spanglish isn’t spoken. As a longtime atticus customer I want to say that the people are always very nice to me and it isn’t like they are speaking Basque or something. More people understand spanish in New Haven than any other language so I don’t really see how its such a ‘foreign’ language. I don’t have a problem understanding them. Do you think they would mention this in any other country in the world where speaking two languages is the norm?

    Every time I go in there I get to practice my ear and that’s one of the only reasons I go there. And anyway they’re way nicer at atticus than they are at the english speaking book trader.

  • ’09

    “Even where an English-only rule has been adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons, the employer’s use of the rule should relate to specific circumstances in its workplace. An English-only rule is justified by “business necessity” if it is needed for an employer to operate safely or efficiently.”

    http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/national-origin.html#VC

  • Goldie ’08

    Here is a hypothetical situation. Say you and a roommate are sitting together in your common room. Your roommate gets a call from a family member. He (or she – don’t want to offend) takes the call and begins to speak english with his family member. Suddenly, without warning, the roommate switches to another language – one you do not understand. He speaks to his family member for a few minutes in the other language before switching back to english. All the while, you are in the room.

    Has this happened to anyone at Yale? It’s as if the roommate wanted to discuss something hidden and secretive with his family member. Something about you and your living habits, perhaps? It’s passive aggressive, rude, and I’m willing to bet it happens all the time at Yale.

    Or how about this: you are out with a group of 5 or 6 friends walking along broadway when you bump into another friend – a friend who speaks spanish. The spanish speaking friend notices another spanish speaking friend in the group and the two converse in spanish without acknowledging the other, non spanish speakers in the group, before parting ways. Again, rude.

  • km

    yeah, agree, service at atticus SUCKS. and yes, it is rude to speak in a language that other people don’t understand.

  • bilingual

    As a Spanish speaker, I feel that the new policy is in no way discriminatory. The employees are not banned from speaking Spanish at all. Growing up bilingual in what was mostly a Spanish speaking region, my teachers and parents insisted that we refrain from speaking a foreign language in front of others. In my case, the language was English. Speaking a different language before some one who does not speak it is in itself very rude. This policy takes politeness into consideration. That’s pretty important for a business.

  • RacistsSuck

    Hey racists: way to advertise your ignorance.

    1. Speaking a foreign language around someone who doesn’t understand it isn’t rude. Demanding that someone stop speaking their native language around you for your own peace of mind IS rude. In fact, it’s about the pinnacle of egotism. Get over yourselves.

    2. Newsflash: English isn’t the national language. Oh yeah, and we’re not an “English-speaking country” – know why? because not everyone in this country speaks English! You might as well say, “We’re a Spanish-speaking country,” because some people here happen to speak Spanish. Wake up: we’re a multilingual society. Stop pouting and take a language course, cretins. (P.S. You might want to start with English, as most of you seem to be struggling with it. There’s irony for you.)

    3. The employees DO speak English to customers. But they have the right to speak whatever they want to to each other. Denying them that right is an invasion of privacy. It’s like requiring every e-mail in your office to be CC’ed to all your coworkers – including e-mails to your family and spouse.

    4. If you think it’s so damn rude to speak a foreign language around a non-native speaker, then stop speaking English around the Atticus staff! It’s like, SOOOO rude, didn’t you know?