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Thread: Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names

    Hotel owner tells Hispanic workers to change names - Yahoo! News



    TAOS, N.M. Larry Whitten marched into this northern New Mexico town in late July on a mission: resurrect a failing hotel.
    The tough-talking former Marine immediately laid down some new rules. Among them, he forbade the Hispanic workers at the run-down, Southwestern adobe-style hotel from speaking Spanish in his presence (he thought they'd be talking about him), and ordered some to Anglicize their names.
    No more Martin (Mahr-TEEN). It was plain-old Martin. No more Marcos. Now it would be Mark.
    Whitten's management style had worked for him as he's turned around other distressed hotels he bought in recent years across the country.
    The 63-year-old Texan, however, wasn't prepared for what followed.
    His rules and his firing of several Hispanic employees angered his employees and many in this liberal enclave of 5,000 residents at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, where the most alternative of lifestyles can find a home and where Spanish language, culture and traditions have a long and revered history.
    "I came into this landmine of Anglos versus Spanish versus Mexicans versus Indians versus everybody up here. I'm just doing what I've always done," he says.
    Former workers, their relatives and some town residents picketed across the street from the hotel.
    "I do feel he's a racist, but he's a racist out of ignorance. He doesn't know that what he's doing is wrong," says protester Juanito Burns Jr., who identified himself as prime minister of an activist group called Los Brown Berets de Nuevo Mexico.
    The Virginia-born Whitten had spent 40 years in the hotel business, turning around more than 20 hotels in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina, before moving with his wife to Taos from Abilene, Texas. He had visited Taos before, and liked its beauty. When Whitten saw that the Paragon Inn was up for sale, he jumped at it.
    The hotel sits along narrow, two-lane Paseo del Pueblo, where souped-up lowriders radiate a just-waxed gleam in the soft sunshine as they cruise past centuries-old adobe buildings. One recent afternoon, a woman slowly rode her fat-tire bicycle along a cracked sidewalk, oversized purple butterfly wings on her back and a breeze blowing her long, blonde dreadlocks.
    The community includes Taos Pueblo, an American Indian dwelling inhabited for over 1,000 years, and an adobe Catholic church made famous in a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.
    After he arrived, Whitten met with the employees. He says he immediately noticed that they were hostile to his management style and worried they might start talking about him in Spanish.
    "Because of that, I asked the people in my presence to speak only English because I do not understand Spanish," Whitten says. "I've been working 24 years in Texas and we have a lot of Spanish people there. I've never had to ask anyone to speak only English in front of me because I've never had a reason to."
    Some employees were fired, Whitten says, because they were hostile and insubordinate. He says they called him "a white (N-word)."
    Fired hotel manager Kathy Archuleta says the workers initially tried to adjust to his style. "We had already gone through four or five owners before him, so we knew what to expect," Archuleta says. "I told (the workers) we needed to give him a chance."
    Then Whitten told some employees he was changing their Spanish first names. Whitten says it's a routine practice at his hotels to change first names of employees who work the front desk phones or deal directly with guests if their names are difficult to understand or pronounce.

    "It has nothing to do with racism. I'm not doing it for any reason other than for the satisfaction of my guests, because people calling from all over America don't know the Spanish accents or the Spanish culture or Spanish anything," Whitten says.
    Martin Gutierrez, another fired employee, says he felt disrespected when he was told to use the unaccented Martin as his name. He says he told Whitten that Spanish was spoken in New Mexico before English. "He told me he didn't care what I thought because this was his business," Gutierrez says.
    "I don't have to change my name and language or heritage," he says. "I'm professional the way I am."
    After the firings, the New Mexico chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a national civil rights group, sent Whitten a letter, raising concerns about treatment of Hispanic workers. Whitten says he sent them a letter and posted messages on the hotel marquee, alleging that the group referred to him with a racial slur. LULAC denied the charge.
    The messages and comments he made in interviews with local media, including referring to townsfolk as "mountain people" and "potheads who escaped society," further enflamed tensions.
    Taos Mayor Darren Cordova says Whitten wasn't doing anything illegal. But he says Whitten failed to better familiarize himself with the town and its culture before deciding to buy the hotel for $2 million. "Taos is so unique that you would not do anything in Taos that you would do elsewhere," he says.
    Whitten grew subdued as a two-hour interview with The Associated Press progressed. He said he was sorry for the misunderstanding and insisted he has never been against any culture.
    "What kind of fool or idiot or poor businessman would I be to orchestrate this whole crazy thing that's costed me a lot of time, money and aggravation?" Whitten said.
    Whitten should have dealt with the situation differently, especially in a majority Hispanic town, said 71-year-old Taos artist Ken O'Neil, while sipping his afternoon coffee on the town's historic plaza. "To make demands like he did just seems over the top," he says. "Nobody won here. It's not always about winning. Sometimes, it's about what you learn."

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Silly old goat.
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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Marteeeen and Marco are difficult to pronounce or understand? And no one in the States comes across Spanish accents except in Texas? Who is this twat waffle trying to kid?
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    Marteeeen and Marco are difficult to pronounce or understand? And no one in the States comes across Spanish accents except in Texas? Who is this twat waffle trying to kid?
    Yes-that Marco can be a real killer!
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    I have a friend named Marco and I constantly struggle with it: Marca, Marcie, Marcom....it's tough, really tough.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Elite Member McJag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buttmunch View Post
    I have a friend named Marco and I constantly struggle with it: Marca, Marcie, Marcom....it's tough, really tough.
    Insist he change his name. You don't have to stand for this.
    I didn't start out to collect diamonds, but somehow they just kept piling up.-Mae West

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    Before my husband joined the NYPD, he worked in a very heavily white co-op community. His first name is Ramon and the supervisior said to him, "We don't have Ramons here, I'm calling you Ray." Unfortunately, it stuck and to this day, the people there call him Ray.

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    Silver Member Hummus's Avatar
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    Hmm, I would expect my employees to follow my rules if they wanted to keep their job.
    The name change was a bit over the top. But if I told you not to speak a foreign language in front of me, and you did it anyways, you would be fired.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hummus View Post
    Hmm, I would expect my employees to follow my rules if they wanted to keep their job.
    The name change was a bit over the top. But if I told you not to speak a foreign language in front of me, and you did it anyways, you would be fired.
    And then you'd get sued and probably lose. You can't fire somebody because they speak a foreign language in front of you. That's just as bad as ordering people to anglicize their names.

    I'm all for people learning English when they come to America, but to insist that they don't speak their native tongue in your presence is over the line.

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    Silver Member Hummus's Avatar
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    ^^^You are right, if I did get sued I would probably lose.

    With an at will employment I can terminate them without cause, I don't need a reason.
    I definitely wouldn't specify other than to say it was for insubordination. If I told my employee not to do something and they did it, that is insubordination.

    I fail to see how I would get sued.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    ^^Because it would fall under the grounds of discrimination. It's illegal to tell an employee that they'll be fired if they speak their native tongue in your presence. Just like it was illegal for the cops in Dallas to hand out citations to people for not speaking English and then they had to reimburse people. At-will employment doesn't mean you can terminate somebody because you don't like something about their culture.

    Now, if you told an employee that they had to speak to you in English, since you don't understand their language, and they refused to speak to you in English, then you could probably fire them for insubordination, but not for refusing to speak English.

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    Silver Member Hummus's Avatar
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    ^^I completely understand your POV.
    However, while we are role-playing, and I'm the boss, of course I would also be intelligent.
    I wouldn't tell the person they would be fired for if they spoke another language in front of me, I would just tell them not to do it.
    I wouldn't tell them that is the reason they got fired either. I would just fire them. Maybe give them a lame excuse about finances or something to make them feel better. Only I would know the reason they were fired, which was insubordination.

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    ^^So your intelligence depends upon role-playing?
    We all like to think we're so special. But in the end, we all do the same stupid shit. - Dennis Miller


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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hummus View Post
    ^^I completely understand your POV.
    However, while we are role-playing, and I'm the boss, of course I would also be intelligent.
    I wouldn't tell the person they would be fired for if they spoke another language in front of me, I would just tell them not to do it.
    I wouldn't tell them that is the reason they got fired either. I would just fire them. Maybe give them a lame excuse about finances or something to make them feel better. Only I would know the reason they were fired, which was insubordination.
    But then you have to give the person a legitimate reason for firing them, especially if it's a minority or woman. Because giving a lame excuse isn't going to work, especially if they think something is fishy about your reasons for firing them.

    And you can't just fire somebody for insubordination without explaining what the act of insubordination was. And the second you say 'they were fired because they ignored my English-only policy on the job' then you're screwed.

    And even if you tell your employees that they can't speak a foreign language in front of you then you're still pushing your luck legally. Because if those employees continued to converse with one another in their native language and then you decide to fire them they could just piece together what the real reason was.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hummus View Post
    ^^I completely understand your POV.
    However, while we are role-playing, and I'm the boss, of course I would also be intelligent.
    I wouldn't tell the person they would be fired for if they spoke another language in front of me, I would just tell them not to do it.
    I wouldn't tell them that is the reason they got fired either. I would just fire them. Maybe give them a lame excuse about finances or something to make them feel better. Only I would know the reason they were fired, which was insubordination.
    Hummus, since you are role playing, and supposed to be intelligent, you would know, that if you are an at-will employer, you dont have to disclose the reason you are terminating them.
    Basic rule of Gossip Rocks: Don't be a dick.Tati
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