A class of approximately 70 Filipino-American hospital workers (represented by the EEOC) just settled with a California acute care hospital for $975,000 — what may be the largest settlement in the healthcare industry based upon claims of language discrimination.
The core claim was that the employees were threatened for years not to speak anything but English. The employees claim to have been harassed, humiliated, subject to undue scrutiny, surveillance, discipline and offensive conduct simply because they spoke the Filipino languages, Tagalog or Ilocano, or spoke with a Filipino accent.
This all began in 2006, the employees claim, when the CEO met just with Filipino-American staff and threatened them about not complying with the English-only language policy, which allegedly mandated that they speak only in English except when speaking to a patient with other language needs or during break time. The CEO also threatened to install surveillance equipment to monitor their conversations, and supervisors, staff, and volunteers constantly yelled at them, mocked their accents and even threatened to have them arrested. One co-worker even went as far as to spray air freshener on a plaintiff’s lunch because the co-worker had a self-professed hatred of Filipino food.
One plaintiff was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that "They were always telling us, ‘Ssshhh. English only. English only. I felt embarrassed, ashamed. I was so angry we were being followed by housekeepers and security guards. I asked the guard why he did that and he said, ‘We were told to watch you and report you.’"
The EEOC General Counsel stated that “Employees should never be targeted because of their national origin or language.”