Interview With EEOC: Saratoga Panda Express Restaurant Sued For Discrimination Against Latinos

On Wednesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced it was filing a discrimination lawsuit against a Panda Express restaurant in Saratoga on behalf of Latino workers.

Panda Express wouldn’t talk to us, saying they don’t comment on individual cases. But Bill Tamayo, Regional Attorney for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in San Francisco, did, explaining what the EEOC is alleging in the case. Here’s the interview, conducted by KQED’s Nina Thorsen. An edited transcript follows the audio.

EEOC’s Bill Tamayo on Panda Express lawsuit :http://ww2.kqed.org/news/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2011/08/pandaexpress1.mp3|titles=pandaexpress

What does the suit allege?

One charging party came to the commission and complained that she had been discriminated against, and she feels it’s because she was Latino, because she was assigned less-desirable job duties like cleaning bathrooms or the countertops. Only the Latino employees, in her view, were forced to do that kind of work, and the Asian or non-Hispanic employees just stood around and never had to do those tasks.

How do you go about investigating something like that?

We talked to the employees who worked there and several employees corroborated her story. We were also able to find out that the charging party had been disciplined for really minor things, and we found out that an Asian employee who did the very same things was never disciplined. Just minor things about preparing the food or doing something with a customer that was not warranted because Asian employees who did the same things were not reprimanded.

In addition we saw that Asian workers got more hours than the Latino employees, so that’s a certain amount of loss of money.

From our investigation, we concluded that the manager here, who was Asian, was treating the Hispanic workers differently than he was treating the Latino workers, to the detriment of the Latino employees.

The lawsuit has just been filed. The parties have about four months before they start active discovery.

We encourage anybody who’s been a victim of discrimination to step forward. We think at least two other people have been victims and there may be more.

Is it more often the case that people whose first language isn’t English don’t know what their rights are?

The EEOC over the last few years has launched a major outreach campaign to Latino and Asian communities, and we’ve filed quite a few lawsuits on behalf of Latinos in our jurisdiction.

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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