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CA Assembly OKs bill on language protection

Bill passed against discriminatory mandates First Posted 07:53:00 08/24/2009

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SACRAMENTO, California ? On a 47-25 vote, the California Assembly approved landmark legislation on Aug. 20 that would prohibit businesses from denying service to a patron because of the language he or she speaks. Specifically, the bill adds protections for language to the state?s civil rights act, which prohibits discrimination within business establishments.

While speaking one?s native language is protected in cases of employment and housing under state law, such protections are not currently extended to consumers.

?No one should be discriminated against simply for speaking their language,? said Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), the bill?s author. ?All patrons, English speaking and non-English speaking, deserve to be served. SB 242 will rightfully add language to the list of protected classes within California?s civil rights act.?

The Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination within business establishments, generally to protect patrons from not receiving service based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, and sexual orientation.

SB 242 would prohibit a business from adopting a policy that requires, limits, or prohibits the use of any language within a business establishment. The bill allows language restriction by a business as long as notification has been provided of the circumstances at the time when the language restriction is required and of the consequences. SB 242 does not impose any additional requirements on businesses other than to respect the dignity and diversity of their patrons.

The issue stems from a proposed policy announced last summer by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) to suspend players who do not speak English. Despite there being no relevance to the sport, the LPGA claimed that it was important for players to be able to interact with American media and event sponsors. Ironically, many of the sponsors are international companies and a number of the tournaments are not held in the United States. No other professional sports league in the United States has such a mandate.

The LPGA later rescinded the proposal after objections from Senator Yee and over 50 civil rights organizations.

?It is quite disheartening that in the 21st century any organization would think such a policy is acceptable,? said Yee. ?With the passage of SB 242 such discriminatory mandates will not only be unfair, but illegal.?

SB 242 must receive a procedural concurrence vote in the Senate before heading to the Governor?s desk.

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