VA Hotel OKs $80K Settlement over English-Only Hiring Rule Dispute

November 10, 2005 ( - An Arlington, Virginia hotel has agreed to pay $80,000 to settle a 2004 federal lawsuit accusing it of illegally discharging a Spanish-speaking dishwasher because of an English-only rule for hotel workers.

The settlement pact came between the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington and its parent company, Interstate Hotels & Resorts Inc. and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of dishwasher Jesus Romero, according to a Washington Post report.

Romero was temporarily laid off along with other kitchen workers in September 2001 while the hotel remodeled its restaurant. Employees were advised they would be rehired less than a year later, the lawsuit said. However, Romero was turned away because of the language mandate.

The EEOC found the firing to be discriminatory because, as a dishwasher, Romero had little contact with the public so being able to speak English wasn’t a “business necessity” for Romero who had worked as a dishwasher for 16 years (See VA Hotel Slapped With English Fluency Lawsuit ).

Although the hotel threw out the language requirement, Romero never got the job back, the EEOC said. According to EEOC policy, a fluency requirement is permissible in workplaces only if needed “for the effective performance of the position for which it is imposed.”

The settlement will provide Romero with back pay, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

More information about EEOC policies on the issue is here .