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Oakville Grocery

Leslie Rudd bought the Oakville Grocery chain, saving the Oakville store from bankruptcy in 2007. Now it has been sold to Jean-Charles Boisset, who is adding it to his Boisset Collection of wineries and gourmet retail locations.

The owners of Oakville Grocery have agreed to pay $149,000 for alleged discrimination after firing five female food preparers over the phone through an interpreter, according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The women, three of whom had been with the company for more than five years, filed a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing against OGC Investments, LLC, corporate owner of the Oakville Grocery stores, alleging that their managers discriminated against them because they were Hispanic, older than 40 years old and did not speak English fluently.

The women, who are all of Mexican descent, also alleged that the company had retained employees who were younger, native English speakers to replace them at the Oakville store.

OCGI agreed to pay $149,000 in lost wages and emotional distress damages, but did not admit to any wrongdoing.

In seeking a comment from Oakville Grocery, the Register heard Friday afternoon from Angie Gregory, general counsel with Leslie Rudd Investment Company.

“We do not comment on any sort of settlements or litigation,” Gregory said. She would not specify the company’s connection to Oakville Grocery, saying again that she could not comment on the case.

On the company website, Leslie Rudd Investment Company lists Oakville Grocery in its “portfolio of operating companies.”

Kevin Kish, director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, said, “Employers may not discriminate against employees by implementing an English-Only policy when native Spanish speaking employees can effectively perform the job.”

“Age also cannot be used as an excuse for terminating employees who are effectively performing their jobs,” Kish said in a news release.

The settlement includes affirmative relief for a period of four years, which is meant to prevent future discrimination by the company. OCGI is prohibited from implementing any employment policies based on an individual’s accent unless it interferes with job performance, or imposing an English proficiency requirement unless effective performance of the position requires it.

OCGI will provide training and education on national origin discrimination and English-Only policies to its supervisors and human resources representatives each quarter.

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.