November 23, 2012 | 11:00am
A veteran Orange County lab assistant who claims that his boss banned him from speaking Vietnamese anytime on the job--even on breaks or at off-duty functions--has agreed to settle his employment discrimination lawsuit prior to a scheduled 2013 trial.
Hung Trinh filed a state lawsuit in April but lawyers for Quest Diagnostics Inc. of San Juan Capistrano got the matter transferred several blocks away to the Santa Ana courtroom of U.S. District Judge James V. Selna.
Trinh, who lives in Lake Elsinore, claims he injured his back on the job and suffered "constant harassment" because of his Asian race by supervisor Estela Comba.
"Plaintiff believes that Ms. Comba had a problem with Vietnamese employees and specifically with him," the lawsuit stated. "Ms. Comba would prohibit him and the other six Vietnamese employees to speak Vietnamese even when they were not on company time. Ms. Comba even prohibited the seven Vietnamese employees from speaking their language at potluck parties."
According to the lawsuit, Trinh's complaints to the company's Human Resources department resulted in an even "higher level of hostility" that culminated in him being fired for an alleged unexcused work absence on Nov. 1, 2011, even though he actually worked a shift that day.
"[The company's] conduct amounts to intolerable and discriminatory working conditions amounting to wrongful discharge," wrote Trinh lawyers Rex P. Sofonio
and Maribel B. Ullrich
In court documents, Quest Diagnostics officials denied any wrongdoing but on Nov. 20 they filed a post-mediation, joint stipulation with Trinh to dismiss the matter before a jury could hear the case.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
In California, it is against the law for employers to discriminate based on a disability or race.
Though Orange County's Little Saigon is home to the world's largest and most vibrant enclave of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, issues over language occasionally arise.