EEOC: Supermarket Gives Preference to Hispanic Workers

Discussion
Aug 04, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Compare Foods is a supermarket chain catering to a primarily Latino customer base, so it only makes sense it would hire a large number of Spanish speakers to work in its stores.


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would normally have no issue with that. But, according to a federal discrimination complaint filed by the Commission, Compare
Foods fired three employees for not being Latino.


“As our nation undergoes demographic shifts, employers must be mindful not to target any specific group for discrimination because they prefer workers of a different race or
nationality,” Lynette Barnes, the EEOC’s Charlotte (N.C.) regional attorney, said in a released statement.


Ms. Barnes told The Charlotte Observer, her office was seeing more complaints of this nature where “non-Hispanics are claiming they lost jobs or were not hired because
employers were hiring Hispanics.”


Two of the former Compare Foods workers involved in the EEOC complaint are black and the other is white.


According to the EEOC filing, Compare Foods reduced the number of hours Eugene Gates worked and otherwise made his working conditions intolerable. As a result, Mr. Gates quit.


The two others involved in the complaint, Bernice Grier and Thomas McCoy, claim they were fired from their jobs because they were not Latinos.


The EEOC is seeking back pay as well as other compensatory and punitive damages for the three workers.


Discussion Question: According to the EEOC, African-Americans are increasingly filing complaints alleging they have either not gotten jobs or lost employment
because of not being Latino. What are your thoughts on this subject and what it means for retailer employers?


According to a study done by Pew Research, 22 percent of blacks say they have lost a job or know of someone who has because they were not Latino. Fourteen
percent of whites say the same.


Thirty-four percent of blacks, according to Pew, believe immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. citizens compared to 25 percent of whites.

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "EEOC: Supermarket Gives Preference to Hispanic Workers"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Got nothing but questions.

And these non-Latino employees were hired in the first place because…?

And does Compare Foods not think that non-Latino shoppers just might be interested in expanding their culinary repertoire and just might want someone who can explain things in English?

And do we still think that laws and rules will solve our abject lack of ability to appreciate and make value of diversity?

Since we have two issues in today’s RetailWire (this one and the item about African Americans in ads) connected to our inability to be loving, accepting and inclusive people – to say nothing about what’s going on in the rest of the world – does it seem to anyone else that there’s just something wrong at the core of who we are? Will things ever change? Only when we recognize that all true change must first be spiritual change.

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Employers should be able to hire and fire employees for any reason or for no reason at all. We should be able to hire people the same way we choose our spouses or friends. There is always going to be somebody who does not fit in. I’m surprised these workers got hired in the first place. Since they did get hired at one point, there is probably more to the story. Employers generally do not terminate employees who contribute to the bottom line and get along well with supervisors, coworkers, and customers.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 7 months ago
This is a tricky topic. First, we must keep in mind that at present the EEOC’s claims are only allegations. So it is better to focus on this as a general issue rather than on the merits of a particular case. As retailers try to market to specific ethnic groups, they face many risks. Those risks can be based on assumptions: better to have certain types of products in the stores, better to have certain types of employees, etc. Putting aside discrimination issues, these assumptions can be dangerous as they often are based on stereotypes that contain wrong information. Certainly, making employment decisions on the basis of race is something that no retailer should do. Assuming that Latino employees will be a better customer fit than other employees who speak Spanish is a dangerous assumption. Retailers need to become more ethnically diverse in their hiring, management and thinking to succeed. Rather than picking employees for stores based on their race, retailers should evaluate what makes good employees for the stores using race (and other suspect… Read more »
Billy Bats
Guest
Billy Bats
14 years 7 months ago
While I generally believe that this is a legitimate business requirement, state discrimination agencies (and federal and most state laws, read neutrally), would find such a practice illegal because the policy has the effect of discriminating against people on the basis of their race, national origin or ancestry (i.e. non-Hispanic). I think the business owner should have the right to determine what his business needs are, and if they’re legit (as they seem to be here), he should be able to do his best to compete for customers. Of course, plenty of non-Hispanic people know how to speak Spanish, so while technically true that the policy discriminates only on language ability, minorities have repeatedly sued for being fired for poor English skills and/or using languages other than English while on duty. Courts have generally held up the firings as valid for legit business reasons, so I guess what is good for the goose is good for the enchilada. People cannot have it both ways, though. If workplaces are required to be “English only” while on… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

During the recruitment process did the employer determine the candidate’s Spanish-speaking ability? Does the employer have a clear policy of only hiring Spanish speakers for certain positions? Does the employer have other people who cannot speak Spanish in the same positions as those terminated? The devil is in the details.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
14 years 7 months ago

The question that came to mind – what does the job description say? Is it a requirement to speak Spanish? Were those that were fired non-Spanish speakers or were their skills below par? Were they given a probation period whereby they could improve their language skills? Or were they dismissed for other reasons? The article did not provide enough information.

If the store requires the ability to be bilingual than that is a requirement of the position. The store has the responsibility before it hires an individual to make sure the person meets its requirements.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 7 months ago

Bernice hit the nail on the head. It’s just not clear why the complainants were let go or had hours drastically cut. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the real issue is language, when it might be about job performance or not fitting in.

The true nature of disputes of this type is often reduced to the more easily-litigated charge of dismissal for not being of a certain race or background. The most common kind in the U.S. is African-Americans claiming to have been fired for not being White. That’s because these claims presuppose a built-in bias that is easy to visualize and which is out of the control of the complainant. It’s the easiest way to get the claims recognized, and it’s much easier than disputing employer decisions made for other reasons.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

We seem to be muddying the waters here a little bit. The article says that the employees were allegedly fired for not being Latino. An ability (or not) to speak Spanish isn’t actually mentioned so may not be altogether relevant. The questions already raised are pretty relevant though, specifically those about whether the catchment area for the store had changed since the people were hired. There is always an element of sour grapes in one ethnic group feeling that they are being discriminated against by another where jobs are concerned. Unless prejudice is really blatant, it is almost impossible to prove. There may be other reasons why people don’t get hired or, once hired, are pushed out of their jobs. This story is way too speculative for my liking and I am very hesitant about expressing any kind of firm opinion.

Karin Miller
Guest
Karin Miller
14 years 7 months ago
The ability to speak Spanish in my area (Los Angeles), is being seen as a plus or sometimes a requirement in many positions where the employee deals with the public, such as in retail, restaurants, customer service, telephone solicitation/surveys, etc. As the buying power of the Hispanic population increases, this trend will no doubt gain momentum. It is hard to argue with a policy that requires that an employee can communicate with the customer, but it absolutely puts non-bilingual candidates at a disadvantage. On the flip side, though, organizations that are hiring for positions that don’t require any specific language skills are still encouraged to skew their hiring away from non-minority, non-female (i.e. white male) candidates in order to ensure that their workforce is diverse. Nearly every company now asks for this “optional” gender and race information on job applications. This can result in a form of discrimination also. There are many forces both working for and against employers and potential employees, depending on the situation. There probably is no set of rules that will… Read more »
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 7 months ago
I’m not sure we have enough information to truly discuss this issue. In a former life, I was a HR exec who dealt with EEOC, NLRB and the like. Each complaint that EEOC receives must be investigated. What is confusing here is the claim that these individuals were fired for not being Latino. If that is accurate, how did they get hired in the first place? What was the reason for termination? Perhaps the demographics in the neighborhood that the store was in had changed. Perhaps now the store personnel need to speak Spanish when previously they didn’t. How long were these employees employed? Many, many more questions. To David’s point, most states are “at-will” states. That means an employer may discharge an employee for any reason other than reasons covered by anti-discrimination laws. This topic seems to be one covered by those laws. Thus it is not, nor should it be part of “at-will.” And no, we should not pick employees as we pick our spouses. Employees should be picked regardless of race, gender… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Is not speaking the language preferred by most customers, reason for a retail worker to be terminated from their job?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...