Updated: Friday, 22 Jan 2010, 2:54 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 21 Jan 2010, 4:35 PM EST
New Haven (WTNH) - A popular eatery in New Haven has issued a new memo to their workers that says they must speak English in front of their customers.
Business is always bustling at Atticus Bookstore on Chapel Street.
"The food is good and there is a lovely atmosphere there," said Joy Moser, a patron.
But that atmosphere is changing. A memo issued by the owner, Charles Negaro, to the mostly Hispanic staff said that Spanish is not allowed on the floor. The intent is to make customers feel welcome and comfortable.
"I don't think it's right. If they are talking to the customers, yes, they need to speak to them in English, but when they are working and talking to each other it makes their job faster, it's their language. They know they speak English, they hired them, so they should be allowed to speak to each other in Spanish," said Mislal Lake, a patron.
Alderman Joseph Rodriguez says it is offensive.
"I encourage the owner to clarify his remarks but I can tell you as a Latino leader in the city of New Haven, from reading the content of that staff memo presented to the staff, explaining to them where they have to speak Spanish in their restaurant, that Spanish is off limits in certain areas, as a Latino I'm offended," he said.
The policy could also have legal ramifications.
"The Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on national origin. And the courts and the EEOC have both concluded that English only language policies can have a discriminatory effect based on national origin," said John Thomas, a law professor at Quinnipiac University.
Click here to read the statement from the owner of Atticus.