New York police officer Jessenia Guzman filed two complaints with the U.S. Labor Department after she was reprimanded at work for having uttered a phrase in Spanish while on the job.
"It was just natural," said Guzman, a 13-year NYPD veteran who is of Dominican origin, but who now has a "black mark" in her file for answering a workmate in Spanish.
Another female officer "was going to get coffee. She said something. I responded (in Spanish). That was it," said the 40-year-old Guzman, a native of The Bronx, who was working on the telephone switchboard at her Manhattan precinct last May when the incident occurred, according to the online edition of The New York Daily News.
A few hours later, Guzman's supervisor informed her that she had been written up for speaking the single phrase in Spanish, a violation of the policy requiring NYPD officers to communicate in English while on the job.
"This policy is in place to allow proper supervision of personnel," the memo or reprimand signed by Lt. Richard Khalaf read, according to the newspaper, which obtained a copy.
The other female officer - who had addressed Guzman in Spanish in the first place - did not receive a reprimand, however.
A spokesperson for the NYPD, a force where one in every three officers is Hispanic, defended the all-English policy and told The News that the department must speak "with one voice, which is English."
NYPD officers must "speak English while they are conducting business for the department unless speaking a foreign language is a necessary component to performing their duties and responsibilities," according to a 2009 NYPD internal newsletter obtained by The News. EFE