The Auraria Higher Education Center, the group overseeing the universities housed on Denver’s Auraria Campus, discriminated against Latino janitors based on their national origin, according to a decision from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The ruling caps a three-year investigation by the national commission, which is charged with enforcing federal laws “that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex.”
The investigation was sparked by a complaint from Colorado WINS, a union representing 31,000 classified state employees.
In total, 12 employees wrote letters to the EEOC alleging the workplace had English-only policies, a violation of federal equal opportunity law, among other charges.
The custodians’ attorney, Tim Markham, told The Colorado Independent the trouble started five years ago when new managers came in and turned the once bilingual workplace into an English-only shop. Translators were no longer available at staff meetings, employment citations and workplace documents were in English only. Workers were forced to sign them on the spot without an opportunity to have them translated.
Four years ago the union raised concerns with the employers, but negotiations failed to change the policy.
“The decision to go to the EEOC was not made lightly and was done so only after it became apparent that AHEC executives didn’t care about the discrimination these workers faced on a daily basis from their managers,” Markham said, in a statement.
The union will go into mediation with the Auraria Higher Education Center. If that does not remedy the situation, Markham plants to take the case to federal court.
Representatives from the Auraria Higher Education Center did not respond to voice messages from The Colorado Independent.
Photo credit: Bradley Gordon, Creative Commons, Flickr.