Miami-Dade County Worker
Fired For Speaking English
From WSVN-TV Reporter - Patrick Fraser Producer - Diana Reed

Zita Wilensky loves to help people. In fact she is a foster mother to kids with special needs.
Zita Wilensky, a victim of discrimination, says "Right now we have a little boy. We are in the process of adopting and he is learning delayed, but he is coming along great."
Professionally, Zita is not doing so well. She says, "I really do feel I was discriminated against and if I didn't I wouldn't be telling you."
Zita worked for Miami-Dade County for 16 years. The last two in the Domestic Violence Unit.
Her file is full of letters of praise, but she began to encounter one major problem.
She says, "I was referred to as the gringa, the Americana. Did they mean it in a polite way or a deragatory way? In some ways at times it was joking. But then it was like every single day and you know what? I have a name."
Zita was the only Anglo in the County Unit. All of her co-workers were Hispanic and she says they liked to play tricks on her.
She says, "My boss presented me with an envelope one day when the anthrax was going around and told me "come here could you smell this? This just came in the mail." Big joke in front of the whole department. Made me look like an idiot."
Then Zita was told she had to speak Spanish in the office. She was given 60 days to learn. After 30 days her boss disguised her voice and called her.
Zita says, "So she called pretending to be someone who didn't speak English. And when you could not communicate she fired you? Yes...that's how it happened."
According to a county document, Zita was fired for transferring the call to the clerk's office. Zita said she transferred it because she wanted what she thought was a Spanish speaking caller to talk to someone.
Either way, despite her protests, after 16 years with the county, Zita was fired and replaced by an Hispanic.
Now her question: can an Anglo be fired for not speaking Spanish on the job?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert, says "The Florida Constituion says that English is the official language of the government. So you can't fire someone simply because they don't speak Spanish and you can't fire them simply because they are Anglo. That's discrimination. That's illegal."
Howard says you cannot be discrimated against based upon national origin, religion, sex, and race. Such as blacks, whites, hispanics, asians, and on and on.
and howard says that includes the treatment employees like zita receive on the job.
"An employer cannot allow an employee to be subjected to racial slurs like gringo, or to be ridiculed or intimidated...thats called a hostile work enviroment and thats illegal."
Zita would like to go back to work for Miami-Dade County, not in the same office, but in a place where no kind of discrimination is tolerated.
When we talked to a county official, we were told Zita was fired because she transferred calls improperly.
They also deny she was fired because she was an anglo and she was not required to speak Spanish.
Her boss just requested that she learn Spanish. But contradicting that, this letter from her boss says its a necessity that she speaks Spanish.
Howard says if Zita sues the county, she has an excellant chance of winning.
Zita says right now she simply wants to find a job.
Problems don't discriminate - so race to the phone. We'll have an answer clear in any language.


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