|Filipina nurses (from left) Hachelle Natano, Jazziel Granada, Anna Rowena Rosales and Corina Capunitan-Yap with lawyer Arnedo Valera, executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission.
WASHINGTON D.C. - A Baltimore hospital that fired its 4 Filipino nurses and hospital worker for speaking Tagalog has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to end the workers' discrimination complaint.
“We’re almost one with it. We’ve signed the papers and it’s just a matter of paying us,” revealed Anna Rowena Rosales, one of 3 Filipino nurses (the 4th Filipino was part of the administrative staff) fired by the Bon Secours Hospital for speaking Tagalog during lunch breaks in 2010.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) decided last August that Bon Secours Hospital’s English-only regulations discriminated against Rosales, Corina Capunitan-Yap, Hachelle Natano and Jazziel Granada.
They accused the hospital management of singling them out because staff members belonging to other nationalities were not disciplined for speaking their own language.
Two years later, Rosales admitted to the Manila Mail that she still feels sad and slips in and out of depression over the ordeal they went through. “I feel different. Who would have thought that something like this would happen to us,” she said.
“But we have to move on. I have to take care of my family, not only here but also in the Philippines,” she declared.
She has since found a new job in a hospital in Sacramento, California. The change in environment may have helped speed the healing process and her recent purchase of new house there has helped too.
Her family in Baltimore would soon be relocating to their new West Coast home.
Yap, Natano and Granada have opted to stay behind in Baltimore.
“Of course I’m happy because we won our case. There is fulfillment because the case is finally over. We have to continue working because we need to make a living,” Yap told the Manila Mail.
Their struggle has already shown signs of bearing fruit. “It’s so different in California where I work now. One hospital there that I won’t mention the name allows their nurses to speak their own language, where they are comfortable with,” Rosales disclosed.
They were among the outstanding Filipinos in the US feted at the recent 7th People's Ball at the Wardman Marriott Hotel in DC.
In his Aug. 16, 2011 order, EEOC Baltimore field office Director Gerald Kiel said he found reasonable cause that Bon Secours Hospital subjected the Filipinos to unequal terms and conditions of employment, a hostile work environment, disciplinary action and discharge because of their national origins in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“Other employees spoke Spanish and other languages contrary to the policies and were not disciplined,” Kiel pointed out. “In addition, it appears more serious infractions of work rules were not comparably punished.”
Kiel urged the hospital management to settle with the nurses. Failing to do so would have opened it to further litigation where the EEOC findings could have served as evidence to support the Filipinos’ allegations, explained their lawyer Arnedo Valera.
Yap said her new hospital employer is very different from the one that fired her. “They accept foreign nurses so it’s alright for us to speak Tagalog but of course, never in front of patients,” she revealed.
“In the nurses’ station, we’re allowed (to speak Tagalog). Something good has come out of it,” Yap concluded, “There is justice.”