August 23, 2002

$240,000 Decree Ends EEOC ‘English-Only Case Against Regis Salons

Hispanic Stylists Subjected to Language Rule, Derogatory Comments and Extra Cleaning Duties

CHICAGO- The U.S. equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that District Judge Joan B. Gottschall signed late yesterday a $240,000 Consent Decree resolving a federal employment discrimination lawsuit against Regis Corporation, a Minneapolis-based company which operates approximately 1,000 hair salons nationally. The case, brought by the EEOC in federal court in Chicago, challenged national origin discrimination against Hispanic stylists at the company’s hair saloon in the North Riverside Park Mall in Chicago.

According to the suit, the working environment at the salon was permeated with an anti–Hispanic bias, and Hispanic employees were fired because of their national origin. Harassment of Hispanic employees included the enforcement of a policy under which employees were forbidden to speak Spanish. The “speak-English-only” policy was enforced during breaks and lunch hours and while the stylists were serving Spanish-speaking clients. The EEOC said that it was also challenging the making of derogatory remarks about Hispanics and the assignment of janitorial duties to Hispanic stylists.

The Consent Decree entered today resolves a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in December of 1990 under Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964, after the failure of attempts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation conciliation agreement with the employer (EEOC and Pizcazo and Gomez v. Regis Corporation, N.D. Illinois No. 99 C 8270). Two of the six class members who will divide the $240,000 in monetary relief intervened in the EEOC’s suit and were represented by the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

John C. Hendrickson, EEOC Regional Attorney in Chicago said, “We strongly support the Decree entered by the court not only because of the monetary relief it provides for the women who suffered the discrimination, but also because of the measures designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.”

Hendrickson noted that the Consent Decree requires action at Regis salons throughout Illinois, including the distribution of a policy against national origin discrimination to employees in both English and Spanish, training for managers on avoiding discrimination, the creation of training video for employees regarding their right to be free from discrimination, and periodic reporting to the EEOC.

John P. Rowe, Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, “The Regis case challenged a persistent bias - even in customer service industries - against employees who do not speak exclusively English in the workplace. The irony is that employers routinely benefit from having employees of different national origins who speak different languages. In our diverse economy a healthy mix of employees really does contribute to economic survival and success.”

In addition to enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, the EEOC enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act; Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the Agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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