DELANO, Calif. - Dozens of Filipino-American employees at Delano Regional Medical Center settle for nearly $1 million after suing the hospital for discrimination.
In 2006, about 70 Filipino-American hospital staff and nurses all signed a petition after they claimed hospital management singled them out during meetings and threatened consequences for not complying with the hospitals English-only policy.
Those employees said they were singled out and harassed by hospital management because they spoke their native tongue at work.
"Those employees were constantly being told to speak English while watching other employees of different national organs were enjoying rights that they didn't have," said Rumie Vuong, of the EEOC.
The lawsuit was filed by the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
According to EEOC lawyers, the settlement is the largest workplace language discrimination case on the West Coast and the largest language discrimination case for the health care industry in the United States.
"The hospital has agreed to revise their equal employment policy and procedures to make sure people know where they can complain to and how that complaint will be dealt with. Additionally they have agreed to revise their language policy," said Vuong.
The suit claims that supervisors, staff and even volunteers were allegedly encouraged to act as vigilantes, constantly berating and reprimanding Filipino-American employees for using their language and culture at work.
"One of our non- Filipino employees sprayed air freshener in my food, because she said she could not stand the smell of what I am eating," said Priscilla Penalosa, a former nurse.
According to a statement released by the hospital, it contends it did nothing wrong, which the consent decree confirms. DRMCs primary concern was bringing this matter to a fair and economically reasonable resolution.
The hospital has agreed to pay certain sums to settle individual claims advanced by the EEOC and private lawyers at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
The hospital statement went on to say most of these monies will go to pay fees and costs for those private lawyers. It made no financial sense for the hospital to continue this lawsuit and further and waste valuable assets which could be better spent on the communities' health care needs, according to the release.
The release also said the litigation was an attack on DRMCs policy requiring the use of either English or the patient's preferred language while providing patient care. That policy has been updated but it remains in place despite this litigation. The policy is designed solely to protect patients and ensure that they receive the best care possible and DRMC remains dedicated to that goal, according to the release.
"We know the settlement isn't an admission of wrongdoing but we are just happy that they recognize that something needed to be done by agreeing to all these injunctive reliefs," said Vuong.
The hospital will also be required to hire an EEOC monitor to handle future complaints about discrimination.