A group of Hispanic custodians at the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver are claiming they are victims of discrimination.
They’ve filed a complaint against the campus operator that could be reviewed by a federal judge.
What started out as a miscommunication over a schedule change for employees working the graveyard shift has become a full investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Too many things have happened to me there that I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Auraria custodian Bertha Ribota.
Ribota said she was injured at work because she couldn’t read a warning sign that was in English.
“If I could speak English I wouldn’t have the problems that exist,” said Ribota.
Last week 12 custodians from the Auraria Campus filed an EEOC complaint against the Auraria Higher Education Center, which is the organization that maintains the campus for Metro State University of Denver, the Community College of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver.
“What is sort of a neutral business practice, that they speak English on campus and it’s an English-only campus has a discriminatory impact on this group of workers,” said attorney Tim Markham.
The complaint accused the campus of purposely leaving employees that only speak Spanish in the dark on the terms and conditions of their employment, changes in their working status, safety and more.
When asked if it was a problem those employees were not being informed of those things in their native language, campus spokesman Blaine Nickeson replied, “I don’t know if that’s a problem. I think it’s one of the concerns. I will go on to say there’s not a statute to translate.”
Auraria Campus (credit: CBS)
Campus operators said there is no state law requiring complete translations. It is standard at other universities in Colorado.
The Auraria Campus believes employees should understand some basic English.
“It’s not our goal to provide every document translated or every conversation translated. Our employees are expected to interact with members of the public and that interaction we expect them to be able to understand English,” said Nickeson.
The EEOC could take several weeks to review the case. If they find actual damages the Department of Justice would get involved.