Terminated for Speaking Tagalog

In Canada, it was because of a spoon and fork, now in the states, Filipinos are receiving unfair treatment at work for being Filipino. For four Filipina-American ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital, their termination still comes as a shock.  In a recent reports, Corina Capunitan-Yap, Anna Rowena Rosales, Jazziel Granada and Natano were fired from their jobs at the Bon Secours Hospital last April 16 for speaking Tagalog.

“I feel I was harassed and discriminated against because of my national origin,” Natano explained.

“They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” she added.

Last November, Bon Secours imposed for the first time an English-only language policy in the Emergency Room, the nurses said.

Many hospitals, especially those with foreign medical staff, implement the rule in trauma facilities because it’s critical everyone understand each other as they respond to life-and-death situations.

They were asked to sign the hospital’s “Emergency Department Expectations” that set the length of their lunch and snack breaks; lays down when they can take a rest; and directs that English should be the only language spoken while the nurses are on ER duty.

Granada was surprised when she too got the boot.

“I was shocked. I’m not even a nurse. I’m a secretary so I’m not involved with patient care. It came as a big shock and I was asking myself, why I was included,” she told ABS-CBN News.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera of the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission has filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The nurses, he pointed out, were “arbitrarily terminated from work without due process,” and the English-only rule violated their basic rights.

Apparently, this isn’t the first incident where hospital employees were terminated for speaking a foreign language. In 2005, the EEOC led a federal law suit against the Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York on behalf of five Hispanic housekeepers. They were sanctioned after they were overheard saying “hasta la vista” or goodbye as they were leaving work. According to EEOC, the English-only rule was unlawful and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination based on a person’s race, sex or national origin. I’m fully aware that Filipino nurses and hospital employees face a lot of discrimination. I know, I’m related to some that have experienced discrimination in the workplace, but not as harsh as what these four Filipinas faced. These incidents show that the Filipino community needs to stick together and that our voices need to be heard.  Filipinos are NOT an invisible group, especially in the medical field. Attorney Valera states that, “all it takes is just one word. That can be a greeting, a remark or even the name of a Filipino dish. Based on this rule, you could say ‘bagoong’ (a fermented fish sauce) and lose your job.” For the full article, click here. (Salamat, Kate)

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