Maldonado v. City of Altus

433 F.3d 1294 (2006)

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Maldonado v. City of Altus

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
433 F.3d 1294 (2006)

  • Written by Arlyn Katen, JD


In 2002, the City of Altus (the city) (defendant) enacted a policy prohibiting employees from communicating in any non-English language while working, unless an employee needed to communicate with a citizen with limited English proficiency. City officials (defendants) provided three justifications for the policy: (1) employees complained that they could not understand what was said over the city’s radios because some employees spoke Spanish there, (2) non-Spanish-speaking employees worried that coworkers might be speaking poorly about them in Spanish, and (3) non-common-language usage around heavy equipment could create safety concerns. A group of 29 bilingual, Hispanic city employees (the 29 employees) (plaintiffs) claimed that after the city implemented the policy, other city employees ridiculed them for speaking Spanish. Street commissioner Holmes Willis privately informed one Hispanic employee of the policy because Willis was concerned that other employees would tease Hispanic employees about it. Management admonished employees for speaking Spanish even on breaks although the policy did not forbid it. A local news article quoted the city’s mayor as referring to the Spanish language as garbage. (The mayor claimed he called it garble but was misquoted.) The city passed its policy without consulting with any Hispanic employees or notifying a consultant that the city had hired to investigate alleged anti-Hispanic discrimination. The 29 employees exhausted their administrative remedies at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and then sued the city in federal court. All 29 employees alleged the policy was national-origin discrimination that violated Title VII by creating a hostile work environment under both disparate-treatment and disparate-impact theories, and several of them also raised retaliation claims. At the summary-judgment stage, the city provided evidence of only one of its three policy justifications; Willis testified that an employee verbally complained to him about street-department employees speaking Spanish over the city’s radio. The district court granted the city’s summary-judgment motion, and the 29 employees appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Hartz, J.)

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