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Monday, May 16, 2011
California Legislature Proposes A Bill To Stop Language Discrimination
No wonder people have such a low opinion of politicians. The following column by Jan Norman, graphically illustrates why legislators are often viewed as incompetent.
 
For those of us who live in California, this is just another example of a legislator who seems to think he (she) should fix a problem that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t surprise me that this particular state Senator happens to represent San Francisco.
For those who do not live in California, you can add this to your list of reasons not to move here.
 
Read it and weep:
 
April 26th, 2011
 
The state Senate has passed a bill that proponents say will better protect California’s foreign language speakers and opponents say will subject small businesses to shakedown lawsuits.
SB 111, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would make it a violation of the state’s civil rights law for a company to require that a specific language be spoken at the business unless it has a narrowly defined business necessity.
Such discrimination is already prohibited against employees or renters under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Yee’s measure would extend the protection to customers and allow them to sue privately and receive minimum damages of $4,000 per violation.
 
Allowing those private lawsuits could generate “meritless lawsuits to be filed for the sole purpose of obtaining a quick settlement,” opponents said.
The state has had examples of a handful attorneys and plaintiffs filing hundreds of lawsuits against small businesses for violations of disability access. Typically in those cases, the attorney sends a letter offering to settle for several thousand dollars instead of the business facing tens of thousands of dollars in attorney and court costs.
 
SB 111 would add language to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which already prohibits discrimination within business establishments based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status and sexual orientation.
The bill does not specify which language, so it is conceivable that a business could be sued for having clerks who only speak Spanish or Vietnamese. The bill is supported by some minority legal and business groups, unions and Consumer Attorneys of California. It is opposed by some business trade groups.
 
Yee authored a similar bill two years ago that then-Gov. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed. That bill was prompted by a policy proposed in 2008 by the Ladies Professional Golf Association to suspend players who did not speak English.
In a press release, Yee said he reintroduced the bill in hopes that new Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, would sign the bill.
 
“No one should be discriminated against simply for speaking their language,” Yee said.
 
A coalition of business groups sent an opposition letter to all state senators saying in part, “Although we believe the bill is well-intentioned, we are concerned with the unintended consequences that may result from the vague and ambiguous language currently used in the bill.”
The bill requires businesses to provide written notice explaining any legitimate business necessity it has for a specific language to be spoken on the premises.
 
Opponents say it’s unclear if that written notice must be all recognized languages and if menus, signs and services must be posted in all recognized languages.
SB 111 would “shift the burden of proof to the establishment to show that a business necessity justified the omission. The costs associated with complying with such requirements and/or defending claims of alleged discrimination would be significant for all businesses,” opponents say.
 
The measure now goes to the Assembly.
 
© 2011 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
 
Read more of Harris Sherline’s commentaries on his blog at www.opinionfest.com
Posted at 14:58 PM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)



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