Fil-Ams win US racial suit


LOS ANGELES—Four Filipino-American health workers, who were fired for speaking Tagalog in the workplace, have won the discrimination lawsuit they filed against the Bon Secours Health System, a hospital based in Baltimore, Maryland.

The ruling was “a big win for diversity and an important victory for Filipinos in America,” said the health workers lawyer, Arnedo Valera, coexecutive director of the Washington DC-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC).

This is because aside from the fact that the ruling benefits all bilingual and multilingual immigrants, it is also the first time the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) came up with a ruling specific to the Filipino language, he said.

“I feel relieved, happy and thankful,” said Jazziel Granada, a 30-year-old health unit coordinator who was two months pregnant when she and nurses Corina Yap, Ana Rosales and Hachelle Natano were dismissed for violating the hospital’s “English-only” policy in its emergency department last year.

In a ruling dated August 16, EEOC Director Gerald Kiel said he found reasonable cause that the health workers were subjected to “unequal terms and conditions of employment, a hostile work environment, disciplinary action and discharge because of their national origin in violation of Title VII (of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).”

The health workers filed their discrimination suit in June 2010.

The EEOC is an independent federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination.

“Everyone has the right to speak their own native language in the workplace so long as it does not adversely affect their job performance or put their patients’ lives in danger,” said Valera.

The EEOC has ordered the Bon Secours Health System to discuss a financial settlement with the health workers. The settlement may also include a demand for an apology and diversity training for management and staff, according to Valera.

Never in front of patients

In their affidavits, the health workers said they made sure they spoke English while performing their work and only spoke Tagalog to each other during breaks.

Natano, one of the nurses, recalled in her affidavit that she had once been reprimanded for replying “Salamat po, doc” (Thank you, Dr.) to a Filipino physician, who had offered her food, speaking to her in Tagalog.

“During patient care, we did not talk Tagalog in front of the patient. There was no incident reported that talking in Tagalog could cause harm to our patients or our coworkers,” said Granada.

After she lost her job, Granada was forced to return to the Philippines because it became more difficult for her to find a job as a health unit coordinator because of her pregnancy. She is now back in Baltimore and has given birth to a boy who is now 9 months old.

Fight for rights

Rosales said she felt both anger and sadness at being arbitrarily fired.

“I treated patients with compassion, love and care… I never compromised the safety of my patients by speaking Tagalog,” she said in her affidavit.

Rosales said she lost the medical insurance for herself and her four children, and she had a hard time finding another nursing job.

“With the economic crisis we’re facing right now, most hospitals have a hiring freeze,” she added.

“I was crying on the way home,” recalled Yap. “I didn’t know how (to tell) my family because I paid most of the bills.” She fell behind on her mortgage payments and nearly lost the family home to foreclosure.

“There were nurses in the ER who committed mistakes that put the lives of their patients in danger but they’re still there because they’re Caucasian,” Yap added.

Yap said she hoped their victory would serve as “an inspiration not only to Filipinos but also to other immigrants whose primary language is not English.”

“I know that we did the right thing—to speak up and fight for our rights,” she said.

Victory against discrimination

The New York-based National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon) said the ruling was “a victory for all Filipino-Americans,” praising the health workers, Valera and the MHC for courageously pursuing justice for the health workers.

The California Nurses Association (CNA) and the National Nurses United (NNU) described it as an important victory in the fight against discrimination.

“Discrimination still exists and we have to remain vigilant in protecting our rights,” said Zenei Cortez, CNA/NNU copresident.

The NNU has close to 160,000 members in every state and is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States.

Similar suits

The CNA last year filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against California’s biggest chain of hospitals, the Sutter Health-California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and St. Luke’s Hospital, for what it described as a conscious effort not to hire Filipino nurses.

Also in California, a group of 52 Filipino-American nurses at the Delano Regional Medical Center has filed a lawsuit alleging that they were singled out for enforcement of the hospital’s “English-only” policy.

The complaint, filed in December 2010 with the US District Court in Fresno claims the hospital’s actions violate federal rights protection laws. It states that the health workers, who were ordered to stop speaking Tagalog, were subjected to humiliation, intimidation and threats of surveillance.

There are about 4 million Americans of Filipino descent in the United States, according to Nafcon.

There is a significantly large number of Filipino nurses working in the US but it is not known exactly how many. According to the publication “Minority Nurse,” most statistical information about Filipino nurses is lumped into a general category of “Asian nurses.”

According to CNA/NNU lead organizer Chito Quijano, Filipino nurses comprise anywhere from 5 to as high as 60 percent of the total nursing workforce in the hospitals where unions have been established.

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  • Anonymous

    mga kapya kong pinoy  dito molang makikita sa pinas ang sang katerbak na discrimination, una kailangan pleasing personality,idad not more than 35 y.o. sa Gov offices. kailangan backer ang pinakamtindi  pinaka big politician,kaya walang chance ang mga pangit at may edad na. na sa amerika ba yan?. I’ here in the US. “m a U.S. citizen ,,before I’ become a nurse i already have a degree. same year i graduated I pass 3 civil service exam which are all first grade type.but spend 3 years as a casual employee in the Gov never got a permanent status kasi dito sa pinas tatalunin ka lang sa mga taong ang elligibility ay cultural minority which na kokoha ka lang nang certification na galing ka sa isang ethnic group ayos na .I spend fifteen years in both Gov. and private,I make good in the private comp. naabot ko regional manager.  ang promotion  dito dina daan sa pasipsipan at palakasan . ang sabi nila ang mga position ay nabibili dao .300T to 1M sabi nila. kong alam mo lang kong sino ang lalapitan mo. so in short iyong mga tunay na magagaling walang chance. sa pilipinas hindi ako nakatangap ni kahit isang award. dito sa amerika sa year 2010 lang tatlo ang nakuha kong award with a money amount total of 7,500 USD ang basi nang pagbigay nang award dito ay actual record at evaluation sa dami nang oras ka nagtrabaho, perfect attendance ka ba,nagtrabaho in place of other person, ang basi nila ang record sa payroll, hindi lang iyong tinuturo lang nang boss ang mabigyan nang award.alam nyo bang mayroon ding mga cannibals na mga filipino dito kinacain nila kanilang kalahi.I’m happy for this victory we’ve been waiting for this.So hindi sila sa itim lang matatakot magdiscriminate.pati na rin sa pinoy. sana mayrong konting pagbabago work discrimination dito sa Pinas.

    • Anonymous

      I agree w/ you jonri..! In Philippines, looking for a job there is really a problem at maraming discriminations nga. if your’re bet. 25 or 30 yrs. old mahirap ka nang matanggap sa trabaho. sa Pinas, hindi ang qualifications mo ang tinitingnan kungdi sino ang ba-ker mo, kung maganda ka at magaling kang sumisip. this problems of looking for a Jobs & other criteria is the fault of our Goverment. they made it like that. this things happening in our country ang matagal na nangyayari noon pang at the 60’s era at up to now eh walang pagbabago kungdi lalo pang lumala’la dhil walang ginagawa ang goverment natin na baguhin sana nila. mas gugustuhin pa ng goverment natin na yong mga kababayan natin ay magpunta at magtrabaho sa ibang bansa kesa sa ating bansa i-contibute ang karunungan ng ating kababayan kaya dhil sa karunungan ng ating kababayan na nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa, yang bansa nayan ang  yumayaman at umuunlad. sana mag-isip naman ang goverment natin hindi yon puro pagnanakawa nalang ang ina-atupag ng mga Politicians sa ating bansa! up to now wala pa rin tayong magaling , honest at w/ concern sa ating bansa at kababayan na nagtatrabaho sa Goverment na sana baguhin lahat at itapon ang pangit na patakaran at alisin ang corruption para bumuti ang palakad ng buhay ng mga pilipino at magkaron ng investors sa Pinas para naman makapasok sa trabaho ang mga kababayan. kung walang pagbabago…ay talagang maghihirap na ng husto ang mga Filipino sa kagagawan ng ating Govierno.

  • Jonathan

    Lesson: Civilized aren’t we? So, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When you’re in the US of A….Speak English!!!

    • Anonymous

      sa lahat ng lahi, ang mga Pnoy ang matagal matuto ng englihs.
      yon ngang mga itim na galing ng africa ang galing magenglish, pati na rin yon mga mexicans.

      • Anonymous

        What are you talking about? The Filipinos are very good in English. Philippines is the only one in Asia that can speak fluent English, even a small girl or boy in Pinas can speak english although its carabao english but still they can speak & understand english. I don’t know where did you get that issue na matagal matuto ,mag-english ang mga Filipino. I don’t agree in you….    :(   !!

  • Anonymous

    Kasi medyo matigas din ang ulo ng mga  Pinoy. Sinabi ng english only, nagsasalita pa rin ng tagalog, bisaya o ilokano itong mga pilipino.

    Para na rin kasing sinasadya dahil pwedeng magfile ng descrimination lawsuit. Pag nanalo pwede ng wag magtrabaho ng kung ilang taon.
    Buti nga nasa US kayo kung sa Arab baka putol dila pa dahil sa pagsasalita ng ibang lengwahe.

    Katulad din yan ng mga ibang pinoy na noong nasa pinas pa nagmamakaawa na kahit anong trabaho tatanggapin basta lang makapunta sa US.
    Pag nasa US na, wala pang isang taon reklamo na agad punta sa Labor, sa Human Rights, ayon nacharge ng slavery ang amo.

  • Anonymous

    how would you feel if jamaican nurses talk to each other in their native language…how about mexican cna’s?…indian md’s?…these people would be working around you and will be speaking in their native tongue…should i file a lawsuit against them because i cannot understand  what they’re talking about?…they might be talking about me…how can i be sure that their conversation is about patient care?…jeezzz…how hard is it to just speak english the whole shift then the rest of the day you can curse on any language you want…again, when in rome…speak german…arrghhh

  • Anonymous

    When you are residing in other countries or working in other countries, like Canada, US, Italy, Spain or in Germany, etc., its only normal to speak their own language when they met their friends or colleagues at work, we can speak our  own language as long as they did their Jobs correctly & not ignoring their obligations & responsibilities. there’s no harm about speaking your own language w/ other Kababayan.In other hand, if you’re working as a group 2 or 3 of you speak their native language along w/ the others that they cannot understand it,then, that is not good to hear it, you have to speak their language that everybody can understand it, there’s also an exception about speaking your own language. anyway,  I don’t see anything wrong when you speak your own language, why is it they making a big News about it. In the US, discrimination w/ other races are really a big issue there in america. If  you read about the histories of the US, there’s no americans existed before. The entire America w/c they alone invented the name belongs before with the Indians. The so-called Americans are not really americans, they are also immigrant from other continents & invaded this land, The US and those people in america are nos. 1 when we talk about Discrimination compared w/ other countries. look at the black americans, up to now, they still discriminate them. Its only sad to hear it that the US is our guardian angel, our hero bec. they depend many countries against other invaders but why is this “Discrimination”. As I’ve read about their histories, this land USA belongs before w/ the INDIANS……there’s no Americans at all. Its only nice to hear it, that there in USA, they have correct Justice & have equal Rights in court. I salute the US Court,  no matter who you are, rich or poor, ugly or pretty, black or white ,actors or actresses, or Politicians etc….,when you did wrong or injustice…….”Justice is always Prevail”!

  • Guest

    My Thumbs up w/ the US court. no matter who you are, whether rich or poor, black & white, actors or actresses, Politicians or whatever, when you’ve done wrong or injustice to others….”Justice is always Prevail”. I salute the US court.

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