Workshop Gives Tips For Recognizing Discrimination

Amber Dawe, Reflejos.com, July 19, 2006

Employers who require that employees speak only English on the job may be breaking the law, according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the law, employers cannot prohibit employees from speaking their native language on the job, unless the employer shows that using English exclusively is necessary for conducting business, said Cristina Wodka, an investigator with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Wodka was one of several representatives from government agencies who gave presentations at a “Know Your Rights” workshop, held June 29 at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.

Most of the attendees were Hispanic at the event, a one-stop source of information pertaining to employment discrimination, equal pay, minimum wage, overtime, immigration and civil rights.

Throughout the evening, a panel of authorities from the Illinois Department of Labor, the City of Elgin, Elgin Human Relations Committee, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shed light on issues that often affect Latinos.

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Are you a tip-earning employee, such as a server or bartender?

According to Bert Rodriguez, assistant director at the Illinois Department of Labor, if your hourly wage, including tips, doesn’t add up to at least $6.50, your employer must make up the difference.

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The presenters also discussed issues related to immigration, social security and civil rights.

The speakers said the most important step to take if you feel your rights have been violated is to contact the appropriate government agency in a timely manner to investigate your claim.

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Identifying employment discrimination:

Employment discrimination means being treated differently than similar employees or job candidates. Discrimination may be based on one or a combination of several factors, including age, gender, national origin or sexual orientation.

An employer may be engaging in discriminatory behavior in any of the following scenarios:

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— An employer has a “no-exceptions” policy banning the speaking of any language besides English in the workplace

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— Workplace conditions create a hostile environment for persons of a certain gender, race, color, national origin, religion, age or disability

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