MALDEF Defeats Repeated Efforts by National Airline Cleaning Company

Gate Gourmet, Inc., a Delta Airlines Contractor, Instituted Unlawful “English Only” Policy. They tried to avoid trial in employment discrimination case.


LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, MALDEF defeated yet another effort by the national airline cleaning company Gate Gourmet, Inc. to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the company’s unlawful employment practices.  Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Gate Gourmet, contracted to clean for Delta Airlines at LAX, prohibited employees from using Spanish during work hours, including rest and meal breaks, all in violation of California Government Code sections 12951 and 12940.

MALDEF first filed suit against Gate Gourmet in May 2015.  After two attempts to get the case dismissed, and a motion to strike a request for punitive damages, Judge Robert Hess of the Los Angeles Superior Court, today ordered that Espinosa v. Gate Gourmet will move forward in its entirety.  MALDEF also successfully secured a protective order to prevent Plaintiffs’ previous employers from having to respond to more than three dozen Gate Gourmet subpoenas requesting plaintiffs’ work history records.

“We are pleased that the court allowed the entirety of Plaintiffs’ case against Gate Gourmet, Inc. to go forward, despite Gate Gourmet, Inc.’s repeated attempts to get the case dismissed,” stated Martha L. Gomez, MALDEF Staff Attorney.  “We look forward to the discovery stage, where we aim to prove that Gate Gourmet had discriminatory motive for prohibiting these custodial workers from speaking Spanish on the job.”

Gate Gourmet employees work to ensure planes are properly stocked and cleaned between flights.  In order to complete their responsibilities, they communicate with each other throughout the day, in person, or via a radio to dispatch.  Many workers speak Spanish in order to more quickly and effectively complete their tasks.

Gate Gourmet became a new third-party contractor for Delta Airlines on March 15, 2014.  Subsequently, a Gate Gourmet manager implemented a “No Spanish,” “English Only” policy for the crew.

“The Court correctly ruled that our case should move forward while preventing this employer from seeking immigration-related information in old employment files,” explained MALDEF National Senior Counsel, Victor Viramontes.  “Latino plaintiffs can press forward on discrimination claims without opening themselves and their family members to immigration inquires, as evidenced by today’s ruling.”

Eliminating workplace discrimination on the basis of language is one of the central pillars of MALDEF’s work.  With the employees of Gate Gourmet, MALDEF is seeking justice for the right to work in an environment free of harassment.

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