Nurses sue over “English-only” policy
A group of 52 Filipino nurses and hospital workers have sued Delano Regional Medical Center (DRMC) in Kern County, California, alleging that the uneven enforcement of the hospital’s English-only policy created a hostile work environment.
The nurses say that they were called to a special meeting in 2006 and warned not to speak Tagalog or any other Filipino dialect at work, not even on their breaks. They further allege that other workers were allowed to continue speaking Spanish and Hindi at work without adverse effects. Filipino employees, on the other hand, report frequent harassment. They say that English-speaking co-workers would often mis-understand their accent and remind them to “speak English,” even when they were communicating in English.
While an English-only policy is not illegal in California (California law says such a requirement is OK, as long as English is a business necessity), the nurses’ lawyer is arguing that the business necessity requirement doesn’t apply because a number of patients at the hospital speak Tagalog as well.
The lawsuit officially accuses the hospital of creating a hostile work environment by singling out Filipinos and encouraging other staff to report any infractions. The plaintiffs are asking for financial compensation and an injunction to prevent future discrimination.
What do you think of English-only policies?
Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.
By Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN