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?


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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

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.

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9 Responses to Nurses sue over “English-only” policy

  1. Julie Santos

    I think that is ridiculous. Why would you need such a policy? I think that they should absolutely be able to speak their own language to co-workers or patients who understand the language. As long as they know the English language to speak to English speaking patients and co-workers and management, What’s the problem?

  2. Tracey Gatelein

    I am surrounded by Spanish speaking co-workers. All I hear ALL day long is Spanish. Yes, I am in the minority. It may not be illegal…but I feel it’s rude and unprofessional.

  3. CATHY

    this is a big problem…..English first ! I find it to be unprofessional and disrespectful to speak another language in the company of others who don’t speak their language. I have worked with Filipinos and I could of sworn they were talking about me in the break room……so there you go this is my take on this I say “ENGLISH ONLY”

  4. LynnD.

    I think it needs to be done. It doesn’t matter what language it is, but I am not for singling out one group. Our patients think they are being talked about, so do our co-workers. It’s unprofessional.

  5. Jamie Patel

    I speak three different languages and it is ridiculous to have a English-only speaking policy. I agree with Julie Santos. Please stop being so vain and think other people are talking of you. Thanks!

  6. Melody

    This is America…and we speak “English” here! I agree, it’s very rude and unprofessional to speak any other language at work unless you are translating for a patient. And by the way, I hate that, “Press one for English” too.

  7. I agree. Speaking another language in the presence of English speakers is rude and unprofessional. We live in America and it is an English speaking country. If any group is having problems with processing the English language then take a class to become for proficient. These groups came to our country and I am tired of having to change things to comply to their way of living.

  8. marisol

    I think is rediculous….. but wend they what you to interprete your langages is good.

  9. Joey Fan

    You work with lives.. English is the national language, it is required in a professional environment. I see it a little dangerous if people cant control how they speak at work they get to comfortable at work talking in their own language then a code is called away and somethng comes out on accident in tagalog because her Filipino coworker is who she is talking to. THe other worker doesnt understand however the information could of been vital something that she needed to know and mistakes happen. THere is no reason to let people talk however on breaks though if this group of peolpe where abusing their rights then just cut them off..