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Cook says she was fired for speaking Spanish at work

A California restaurant cook is fighting back after she said she was fired for speaking Spanish on the job.

She has filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, contending she was the victim of discrimination. California law largely prohibits an employer from treating employees differently based on their accent or native language.

The woman said that last May, she was at work at the high-end Italian restaurant near Sacramento when she and a waitress had a brief discussion in Spanish about whether a dish was ready to be served.

Then, she said, the owner yelled at the waitress and said that Spanish wasn't allowed in the workplace. The cook said she confronted the owner and let him know she thought he was discriminating against workers of Mexican heritage. She said his response was to ask her if he should put burritos on the Italian menu, followed by: "This is America. We speak English here."

And she was fired.

The chef said two of the restaurant owner's sons, who also worked there, tried to console her but were chastised by their father.

The restaurant owner was born in Argentina, grew up in Italy and opened the restaurant 16 years ago, according to a newspaper report from 2004. The fired woman said that when she was interviewed for the job, they spoke Spanish, and she never was told the workplace would be English-only.

The man has denied the allegations of discrimination.

Employees in California are protected from discrimination. Anyone who believes they have been discriminated against on the job should contact an employment law attorney.

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