Colorado Schools Sued By Custodians For Using English Instructions

230px-AurariacampusThere is an interesting lawsuit against an academic institution in Colorado. Spanish-speaking custodial workers at the Auraria Higher Education Center in Colorado are suing over the failure of the Center to give them instructions in Spanish — alleging that they have faced unsafe conditions over the use of English rather than Spanish. The case suggests that the use of Spanish can not only be legally required but that the use of English can constitute a type of unsafe workplace.


Roughly a dozen custodial workers filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the Center only communicated with its workers in English. The complaint names the Metropolitan State University of Denver, the University of Colorado-Denver and the Community College of Denver.

Blaine Nickeson, an AHEC vice president, said that the AHEC does offer some translations, but that it cannot be required to use native languages for all of its employees.

I tend to agree. I cannot see how using English as the primary form of communication in the United States can be the basis for discrimination or an unsafe work environment. If schools are legally required to speak the language of custodians and other employees, can they refuse to hire non-English speaking employees or would that be a form of discrimination based on national origin? Such an obligation would presumably extend to all languages from Polish to Chinese to Spanish. It creates an added burden on businesses which could find themselves in a vice between the duty to hire without discrimination and the costs of supplying translations for any non-English speaking employees.

What do you think?

Source: CBS

97 thoughts on “Colorado Schools Sued By Custodians For Using English Instructions

  1. LK,

    You are correct and speak with dignity…..thanks for the mention of my daughter…..

  2. OS,

    Hate to break the news to you…. But the Cherokee are not the only true Americans….. Where Winthrop came aground…. I suspect they were natives and not Cherokee …. But Wampanoag or something like that…. Maybe they spoke Cherokee…. I don’t know….

  3. During my working days I would fly to the west coast for biz and pleasure. I would look down from the plane and see the very interesting terrain of the great southwest. I had flown to Phoenix, but never got out of the metro area. When we started going to San Diego for the winter, I got to drive through this distinctively beautiful part of out country. I stopped somewhere in Arizona a couple years back @ a Walmart in Navajo country. It was so interesting for me to hear virtually all the clerks and customers speaking their native language. But, of course, they all spoke English as well. As you know, these people and their language were invaluable during WW2.

  4. I’ve been thinking (and still thinking about it) that American English maybe should be declared the official language of the country and some level of skill therein should be mandatory for all immigrants. Also, that requirement should be supported by schools offering free language courses to children and adults. The lack of knowing the language works a handicap on the non-proficient. They are relegated to opportunities only within their own communities and shut out of the greater community and the business opportunities therein.

    Being non-proficient in the greater language in many ways relegates one to an economic underclass and we don’t need a larger underclass. It expands daily with the un and under-employed as it is. Any steps that would work to shrink the underclass would be a good thing. Of course, having citizens that don’t speak the country’s majority/business language are resources that the country can’t or can’t effectively tap. The nation suffers from that loss.

    It should be win/win.

    • As a Texan, I have to remind people that Spanish was an official language of the Republic of Texas. So it would be an offense to our history to declare English as the official language of the US. The same is true of New Mexico which had a large Spanish speaking population at the time of its annexation.Then there is the problem of Puerto Rico which has Spanish as its dominant language and is mostly bilingual. I think that this can be done on a state by state basis. I can see no rational reason Spanish has to be accomodated in Idaho, North Dakota, etc..

  5. So should French also be an official language of the US because parts of the US were at one time territories or departments of France? I don’t think Alaskans are going to take too kindly to being made to accomodate Russian by that matter.

    • I know of NO part of the US which ever had French as its official language after it became part of the US. Try using some sense. When Alaska was bought by the US I was unaware that the treaty gave preference to Russians and their language. That was NOT true of Spanish which WAS officially part of the laws promoted by New Mexico and Texas. i do not know how CA handled their miniscule Mexican population when it became a state, but I suspect that the Spanish speaking part of the population was so small that it was not considered in its laws. The same was NOT true of Texas and New Mexico which had a large population of Spanish speakers, and in New Mexico they were a majority.

  6. Juliet Lester Neary said:

    “Oh, right! $1902 a month, before taxes, is a huge amount of money. I dare you to try to support a family on that amount.”

    You either missed my point, or sidestepped it.

    The amount of the salary for a custodian at that school is only relevant to your argument, if all of their janitorial staff are “immigrants.”

    “Financial benefits of hiring immigrants” was your phrase.

    And my phrase is this: where exactly is the financial incentive of hiring immigrants, if they represent less than half of the staff, and everybody is on the same payscale?

    • Perhaps if you made a cogent point, it would be easier to respond.

      As I discovered when I lived in El Paso, having a large labor pool that was willing to work for very low wages lowers the wage scale for the rest of the available applicants of that job, as well. People working for less than $2,000 a month (less than $11.00 an hour, btw) are not living extravagant lives. Since Colorado isn’t a border state, these Spanish-speaking employees are likely immigrants. Since they’re making use of the judicial system, they are here legally. If they are here legally as janitorial staff, they are likely here on a work visa, sponsored by the school.

      Again, and I’m typing slowly so you can understand, employers love to reap the financial benefits of cheap labor, without assuming the responsibilities.

  7. Randy:

    You are aware that French was widely spoken in Louisiana and in many circles there English was the second language. In fact, Confederate General Gustave Beauregard’s first language was French and he certainly was not unique.

    And there is to consider also the Native Americans’ languages.

    • Darren, I am married to a Cajun so I know a lot about the French speaking folks in North America. My point was that to my knowledge French or languages other than Spanish have NOT been recognized as an official language after coming under the flag of the US or changing their legal status from the original state. The same is true of Native languages since those folks were NOT considered part of the US nation until the 20th century.

      By the way, the Cajun French and French Canadian is NOT real French. I had a F/O who was a trilingual woman and we were flying into Montreal and she was handling the radio comm. So I thought it would be cool if she spoke on the radio in French since I speak a fair amount of it, and I would check with her on my understanding of the instructions. So we switch over to Montreal center, and she is listening, and is outraged at the poor quality of the French. So she refuses to speak French with those barbarians who were killing the French language! So I missed out on the shock of the controllers speaking French to an American airliner.

  8. Arguments that restrain the government from doing something nationally today because it would be an affront to the (cultural) history of a state aren’t persuasive to me generally. Slaves were sold, bought and held in bondage in my state, it’s part of our legal and cultural heritage. We were admitted to the union as a slave state due to the Missouri compromise. Being a slave state was the compromise. Heritage is nice, unless it isn’t, but positive or negative it doesn’t make a state special enough (IMO) to argue that a national policy shouldn’t be enacted if the policy can reasonably be anticipated to benefit the individual and the nation.

    The states are rife with legal and cultural heritage that is oppressive or discriminatory or divisive. The sooner a national policy can be enacted to curb a states action to enshrine such artifacts of legal and/or cultural heritage, the better. In fact, obviously divisive artifacts of cultural heritage being supported by states generally should be outlawed by the national government and most have already but not all, such as the propensity of some states to fly the confederate flag.

    I don’t see language in the same light as slavery and I don’t advocate being a language nazi. I have a view of language requirements that would stress accessibility in all commercial interactions and education as its baseline. An adequate definition of ‘conversational’ would have to be devised but there are countries that already use that as a requirement so it wouldn’t be as if there were no examples to draw upon. The bar is pretty low since there are only so many people one has need to deal with. I don’t see that as a burdensome requirement for immigration. I think it’s workable.

    • Lotta, we already have the English language requirement for immigrants becoming US citizens. So I think that is quite enough, and besides I like hearing Spanish and using it which is why I live in South Texas. I think some part of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 should be changed as far as elections concerning second language requirements go. It is a bit much since I am an election judge and it is hard to get bilingual poll workers in many places where it is not needed.

  9. Randy has a point there about French, Darren. Frech hasn’t been the official language of government in Louisiana since Jefferson signed off on the purchase.

    BTW, there is little funnier than throwing a native proper French speaker in with a bunch of coonasses and watching the confusion abound. Not only is Cajun and Creole French a bit different in grammar and syntax, coonasses tend to talk at about 100 miles per hour.

  10. JLN it is worse along the border since my neighbor in McAllen was a legal Mexican immigrant who was a skilled auto mechanic and he only earned $8/hr. The reason for this is that most of the workers in his shop were working in the US illegally and commuting to work every day across the bridge. Most people do not know that the US has given out over 6 million Border Crossing cards to Mexican citizens so that they can shop in the US along the border. Those are good for unlimited entry and length of stay as long as they are within 25 miles of the border.

    Most folks also don’t know that Texas is giving a free US public education to Mexican kids who commute to school every day across the border. In Del Rio, the school superintendent asked the BP to stop and detain all the kids crossing the border for one day to check on their legal status. It was found that over 400 kids were using US schools illegally. Their excuse for being in Mexico that day was that they ALL had a sick aunt they were visiting for the night! They did further checking and found that most of their school addresses were bogus or had 30 families living in one house.

    Obama by his latest policy, has basically granted US citizenship or legal residence to Mexican kids who live along the border. This will make it even MORE attractive for the Mexicans to cheat and attend US schools for free. These kids will go to and graduate from a US high school, thus being eligible for reduced tuition at all state schools, and have legal status for doing so, and a claim for US citizenship.

    • Arthur, you seem to have misunderstood my point. Mexican citizens are going to come across the border to shop, live and work. Just like American citizens do in Mexico. That’s just a fact of geography.

      In my opinion, the solution is to make the borders more open, not less. If people are coming over here to work, let them. And let them pay taxes, including the Social Security they’ll never collect, unless they go through the channels to become citizens. Then you won’t have to worry about Mexican children coming to school here, because their families are paying into the system.

      Making the borders “stronger” only increases all the illegal trafficking that goes on — drugs, humans, medicines, etc. Guess who benefits most from a strong black market? Big Business, Big Agra and Big Pharma. Average citizens in both countries pay a high price so that the U.S. has a cheap, undocumented labor pool, drug addicts can have access to black market pharmaceuticals, and everyone can have their fruits and veggies without being directly exposed to all those pesky chemicals.

      • JLN, I don’t know what fantasy world you live in, but it is just that, FANTASY. US citizens do NOT commute to work in Mexico along the border to work at jobs Mexican citizens won’t do. In fact. when Ameriflight had a run from SAT to MMMY, Monterrey, I was thinking of living in Mexico and flying that run. I could NOT do that according to Mexican law even though I would be working for an American company, and had a legitimate reason to live there. I would not be taking a job away from any Mexican citizen too. So there is NO equality of opportunity for US citizens ANYWHERE in the world equal to that afforded foreign nationals in the US. To speak of making things less restrictive is absurd since NO country on Earth will accept that, other than US contorlled big business which loves the situation.

        In FACT that is why the Chamber of Commerce and ALL business is for immigration “reform” since it will drive down US wages even more. Any progressive who is for this loosening of the workforce requirements is simply doing the work of the wealthy who love this. It is anti-American worker in the extreme. There is a good reason we have laws against child labor, wages and hours laws, minimum wage laws, etc..It is because history has shown empirically that it is the only way to ensure fairness in labor relations.

        I guess you are totally ignorant of how education is funded in the US. Working in the US does NOT make one liable for school taxes. It is the property owners and renters who do that. You also forget the fact that over half of illegals work OFF the books, and pay NO taxes. Making them legal will not put them on the books since you have to be delusional to think that the employers will turn themselves in for not paying all those back taxes when CIR is done. Then you have to think that the now legal workers will demand a PAY CUT from their employers once they become legal so that they can pay all the taxes on income, FICA, Medicare, Medicaid, and state income taxes. If you think that will happen,there is no hope for your mental process.

        Then you seem to think that those who cannot get visas or immigration permits will simply wait in line for those visas which will never come. The bulk of the illegals are not the highly skilled and well off. They will STILL be denied entry under any “reform”. What do you think that they will do? Over 40% of the illegals are NOT from Mexico, and they will STILL try and enter illegally no matter what reform is done, since they will not be able to get work permits as Mexican citizens will.

        Then you say that making the border stronger will only increase illegal traffic. That is absurd on its face. In fact, the people who say that fences don’t work are the same people who complain that they DO work and force illegals into hazardous areas to cross illegally. You have a problem with rational thought. There is no impermeable border measures any where. What CAN be done is to reduce it to a miniscule level. THAT is very achieveable. Only big business and employers and those who hate American workers are against the fencing and border security measures. I have actually been on a border watch project and I know what goes on.

        We could do away with a border barrier IF we allow the BP to shoot those who are crossing illegally. In fact we have many such areas in the US such as the airspace above downtown DC, prisons, Area 51 and other high security areas. The guards there can and WILL shoot without warning. If you do not want that, then we need fencing. Along with agents, such a barrier is very effective as long as you have people to back it up.

        • You know, Arthur, I wasn’t the slightest bit insulting to you. Not a bit. So this debate is done. I’ll leave you with this — go down to Ft. Bliss sometime and follow some of the higher ranking officers and enlisted “home” some night. See how many actually reside in Juarez.

          • Since I lived at Laredo AFB for a couple of years, I did the same thing in Nuevo Laredo in Boystown. It is the SAME as Mexicans coming over here to shop which is perfectly legal and right by the way.I certainly did NOT claim to live in or have a RIGHT to live and work in Mexico. I don’t expect any rational response to my points in any case since there are none to be had. As you have proven with your last post. Thank you for confirrming my points.

  11. Half of the equation seems to be missing here – if the school had refused to hire these people on the grounds that their inability to speak English was a safety issue, would a resulting lawsuit be any less inevitable?

    The problem is the ‘reasonable’ part of the reasonable accomodation. Is it unreasonable to expect employers to address Spanish-speaking workers in Spanish, given how many Spanish-speaking workers we have here? What about French, which is after all the lingua franca? What about Mandarin, which is the first language of more people than any other? What about Polish or German or Tagalog or Urdu or Klingon? At what point does it become unreasonable to demand that employers address employees in their preferred language?

    Well, sorry, you don’t get an answer to that question ahead of time – you don’t get to know what the law is until after you are accused of breaking the law. Is there anything more manifestly unreasonable than denying people the right to know what the law is prior to prosecuting them for breaking that very law?

  12. I should have said in that last part – you don’t get to know what the law is until after a judge and jury decide what the law is.

  13. A. The oath to become a naturalized citizen in this country is spoken in English and sworn to in English after the new potential citizens have taken classes in American history and culture.

    B. To become a citizen is a voluntary act and if you volunteer that means you are volunteering to learn English to adapt to your new country. Would anyone volunteering to become a citizen of any other country not know that to assimilate they would have to learn a new language?

    C. It came out in the last week or so all the bennies given to the family of the two Boston bombers. Here are some of the bennies listed below:

    Section 8 housing

    Free public healthcare

    Food stamps and other EFT transfer payments

    Federal Pell Grants for both sons and most likely their daughters as well.
    (That is $5200.00 per year for each son or daughter who attended a college.)

    City of Cambridge also awarded a $2500 per year scholarship to the younger
    son.

    Younger son also reportedly was receiving state.

    We have Americans –already citizens– who do not get bennies like this and yet we open our doors and give newly arrived immigrants aid like this only to have these two clowns kill 4 and maim almost 200.

    Eight or 12 custodians ( I did not read if they are citizens or not), living in the greatest country in the world, the most generous country in the world HAVE JOBS — no matter what the pay — when tens of thousands do not … And they are bitchin’ because they have to work in an environment that requires them to receive instructions in the language of English. I sincerely hope that whatever judge hears this case throws it out at the earliest opportunity and admonishes these workers to get with the program.

    Finally, just HOW are they being threatened or what makes them think their work environment is endangered because they primarily interact in Spanish??

    Again, this is pure rubbish. Have them quit if they feel endangered and see how quick they get hired somewhere else.

    Ohhhh, the shoe is on the other foot…..eh?

  14. I just read above where someone said follow high ranking military officers from Fort Bliss home while they make their way across the border to their houses in Juarez.

    As someone who did serve once upon a time in the Army, I respond “Surely, you jest”….??

    Juarez is the absolute murder capital of the world. To the best of my knowledge, all US military are forbidden from going to Juarez (at least at night, anyway but am almost sure it is off-limits by day, as well.)

    No officer, senior NCO or even a private who has spent even one day at Ft. Bliss would not have immediately heard about the narco-terrorist killings across “the river”.

    It is sheer folly to think that US military would rent or own housing in Mexico given the penchant by the cartels to shoot anyone or anything at any time of day they so desire. Please give our military a LOT more credit.

    • It was JLN who thinks that because one went across to visit the women for sexual favors, it makes one the same as an illegal immigrant who violates US laws and cheats and steals services. I was refering to a time long ago when I used to go to Boystown and the restaurants in Nuevo Laredo and I would have done the same in EL Paso back then too. Now I do NOT go to Nuevo Laredo if I can help it. I went to barbaques at a friends house, and we would listen to the gun fights going on across the border. But I guess Anon851 thinks she is a bit off too by saying surely you jest! By posting this, she indicates she does NOT jest and thinks that it is a real thing today, and justifies illegals coming here. How that shows her rational capacity mystifies me and I guess the rest of us.

  15. I am reasonably sure the Commanding General of Ft. Bliss has put Juarez off limits to all military under his command on Ft. Bliss. If he has not, by chance … he should.

  16. I agree with Anon about those jerks who came over here from Russia or some sub set thereof and got all of the benefits.

  17. Juliet Lester Neary said:

    ” . . .having a large labor pool that was willing to work for very low wages lowers the wage scale for the rest of the available applicants of that job, as well.”

    Exactly so. Nothing more sinister than human supply & demand. No critical thinking necessary. The paycheck most of us make is inversely proportionate to how easy it is to replace us.

    So after recognizing an indisputable free market basic, by what stretch of the imagination might anyone surmise an influx of millions of folks with little education will IMPROVE salaries in the only jobs many of them quality for?

    “Since they’re making use of the judicial system, they are here legally.”

    Please, Lord in Heaven, tell me this person doesn’t handle sharp objects.

    People who enter this country illegally take advantage of the U.S. legal system every day. And who do you think pays for it? Maybe you recall California governor candidate Meg Whitman’s housekeeper? She pulled off a $23 an hour scam for 9 years. Then hired a $1,000 an hour attorney for no money at all and told CNN had badly she’d been treated.

    “If they are here legally as janitorial staff, they are likely here on a work visa, sponsored by the school.”

    Don’t say “likely.” Say possibly. Because it’s just as possible some of their jobs were acquired via the magic of the fake ID industry.

    Thanks to the deluge of millions in a far-too-brief time span, we have added a myriad of unintended consequences to a society that is sputtering under its own weight.

    And as I’ve opined before, overloading a lifeboat may mean one’s heart is in the right place.

    The result is unsustainable madness.

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