LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — A group of Spanish-speaking airplane cabin cleaners have sued their employer alleging they were required to speak only English on the job in Los Angeles.

Many of the 14 cabin cleaners for Gate Gourmet speak little or no English, which they say has made communication at work virtually impossible.

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The suit (PDF) filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund alleges that a shift manager began barring workers from speaking Spanish after Gate Gourmet took over the contract to clean Delta Air Lines planes at Los Angeles International Airport a year ago.

Swing shift manager Silvana Jahshan instituted an English-only policy from the inception of Gate Gourmet’s takeover, according to the lawsuit.

“Gate Gourmet’s language policy requires plaintiffs and employees who do not speak English to go without speaking during a work day,” the suit alleges.

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Gate Gourmet spokeswoman Christina Ulosevich would not comment on the lawsuit, saying that the company has not yet been served the complaint and “as a matter of practice, Gate Gourmet does not comment on active litigation.”

She added that the company “does not have an English-only rule” and communicates with employees “in multiple languages, and certainly in both English and Spanish in Los Angeles.”

Under California law, employers can require workers to speak English if there is a business necessity.

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