Hess Settles Language Discrimination Case

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Hess Settles Language Discrimination Case

Rochester, N.Y. -- A settlement was reached in a case dating back to last October that pitted Hess employees against the corporation in a language discrimination case.

Workers from a Hess gas station on Ridge Road here complained to the state attorney general they were instructed by senior level management to only speak English while working. Those who didn't comply, they claimed, faced disciplinary action or loss of their jobs. According to state law, employers can only insist on "English only" for business or safety reasons.

Jose Hernandez, who managed that West Ridge Road Hess station, told local television station WHAM he and his co-workers were told they couldn't speak Spanish at work to each other or to customers.

"They're asking us not to speak our language, that's a part of who we are," Hernandez told WHAM last October. "It's almost like telling us not to breathe; that's a part of who I am."

In total, seven workers who filed complaints will split $94,000 in restitution. The settlement also requires the Hess Corp. a to adopt a non-discrimination language policy in the work place, reimburse the attorney general's office $35,000 for the investigation, and train some staff on discrimination policies, reported WHAM.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez told WHAM the case could set a precedent statewide, and possibly nationally.