Filipino nurses sue hospital over English-only dispute

By Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Dec 09 2010 06:21 PM | Updated as of Dec 10 2010 07:47 PM

DELANO, California – A group of Filipino nurses is suing a hospital for discrimination.

Elnora Cayme never thought she would be forced to leave her job just because she can speak Tagalog. Cayme had worked as a nurse for over 27 years.

Cayme claimed that the management of Delano Regional Medical Center (DRMC), a hospital in Delano, California, held a meeting only for Filipinos and told them never to speak in Tagalog or any Filipino dialect while in the hospital.

The nurses complied. But because they spoke English with a Filipino accent, there were times when they were accused of not following management’s English-only policy.

“Our co-workers, supervisors and any staff that doesn’t speak our dialect, they approach us once or twice a day along the hallways, nurse’s stations and even at break rooms, saying ’speak English’ even if we’re not talking, even if we haven’t opened our mouths,” Cayme said.

On Tuesday, 52 Filipino nurses filed a lawsuit against DRMC. The group includes current and former employees who left because they felt harassed at work.

Some of the plaintiffs who still work at the hospital are refusing to talk on camera, fearing they might lose their jobs.

Wilma Lamug, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit added, “The president said whoever was caught speaking Filipino language will be suspended or terminated.”

Although there were other employees who also spoke languages other than English, only Filipinos were allegedly targeted.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), which joined forces with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), said DRMC violated federal and state laws.

The English-only policy is not considered illegal in California when it is a business necessity.

But in the nurses’ case, the lawyers said this does not apply because the hospital has patients who are also Tagalog-speaking.

Cayme tearfully said, “We are all human beings just like everyone else. We, Filipinos are hardworking people. We are dedicated in our work. We are loyal.”

The lawsuit was filed after efforts to reach a settlement failed. Apart from financial compensation, the nurses are also seeking an injunction to prevent future discrimination. Balitang America