The hotel industry should do all it can to accommodate Spanish-speaking employees and train them in their native language.
The importance of providing Spanish speakers in the hospitality industry with training in their native language cannot be overstated.
The numbers compiled by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics bear this out: The Hispanic/Latino labor force in the United States was nearly 12 million in 1994, 19.3 million in 2004, 25.4 million in 2014 and is projected to be 32.5 million by 2024—or 20% of the entire workforce. The share of Hispanic/Latino workers is exponentially higher in states such as California, Colorado, Florida, New York and Texas. In fact, as of 2014, Hispanic/Latino employees made up 36.5% of the workforce in California, according to the California Budget & Policy Center.
This data should be of particular interest to those in the hospitality and leisure industries given the Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that 22.3% of workers in those sectors are Hispanic/Latino as of 2014. Given the predominance of Hispanics/Latinos working at hotels and resorts, it is not much of a stretch to presume that countless hospitality employees are native Spanish speakers.
This is especially relevant to hoteliers in their capacity as employers in the wake of the #MeToo movement and by virtue of some troubling findings from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Recently, the EEOC identified specific factors that put a workplace at risk for harassment, and an important one has to do with language barriers. Specifically, the EEOC determined that workers who do not speak English and might not know their rights might be more frequently subject to exploitation. The upshot is hotels and resorts should provide Spanish-speaking employees with sexual harassment, sensitivity and managerial training in their native language.
The #MeToo campaign has highlighted the importance of face-to-face, interactive training in the workplace. But what good is training if the audience does not fully understand the subject? No doubt, if hoteliers want to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, which is incumbent upon them, they must make sure employees comprehend the training provided.
Toward that end, hospitality employers should clearly communicate in Spanish to their Hispanic/Latino employees that unwelcome harassing conduct cannot be tolerated—ever. This can be done by providing Spanish language anti-harassment training to managers and employees, circulating sexual harassment prohibition policies written in Spanish, establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. Doing so will create a workplace environment in which all employees, no matter their cultural backgrounds, feel free to raise concerns and are confident that complaints will be properly addressed.
Regarding the scope of training, there is another aspect that the #MeToo movement has made clear—bystander training is also essential in this volatile climate where sexual harassment allegations are on the rise. Indeed, employees need to be aware that individuals subject to harassment are not the only ones that need to speak up; bystanders who witness harassment should volunteer information to assist their employers dealing with incidents of misconduct. This message also should be conveyed in Spanish where and when appropriate.
Hoteliers must appreciate the perils they face for failing to provide adequate sexual harassment training that all employees can absorb. The incentive to train in Spanish is not just a moral one, but legal and financial as well. The bottom line is in the absence of suitable attempts at prevention and remediation, sexual misconduct that occurs in the workplace can result in extensive monetary liability on the part of a hotel employer.
Without question, hoteliers should do all they can to reach Hispanic/Latino employees in an effort to eliminate sexual harassment. Given the ever-increasing share of Spanish speakers in the hospitality workforce, those efforts should include training in Español.
Diyari Vázquez is counsel at Michelman & Robinson, LLP, a national law firm with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County (California), San Francisco, Chicago and New York City. She represents clients in the hospitality industry, and advises them in matters related to labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, reduction in workforce, hiring, wage and hour issues, and the like. Ms. Vázquez is a native Spanish speaker and available to conduct sexual harassment and other employee training in that language. She can be contacted at 310-564-2670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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