52 Fil-Am employees sue hospital for discrimination and harassment

A GROUP of 52 former and current Filipino-American hospital employees filed a lawsuit against their employer, Delano Regional Medical Center (located in the Central Valley) for discrimination and harassment on the basis of national origin.
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California last December 7, 2010.The action was filed against Central California Foundation for Health/ Delano Regional Medical Center and Delano Health Associates, Inc. (collectively referred to as “DRMC” or “Defendants”).  The employees are represented by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.
The complaint states that DRMC discriminated against its Filipino-American employees because of their national origin and subjected the Filipino-American workers to severe and pervasive workplace harassment.  DRMC prohibited Filipino-American employees from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages under a broad-reaching, English-only policy.  DRMC singled out only Filipino-American employees in enforcing the policy.
Among all their employees of various ethnicities, defendants required only Filipino-American employees to attend mandatory meetings with management.  During these meetings, DRMC management told the Filipino-American employees that they were prohibited from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages at the workplace. 
DRMC reprimanded them, threatened to monitor them with audio surveillance and threatened to discipline and suspend employees who will be caught speaking Tagalog.   Defendants also encouraged other employees to report Filipino-American employees to supervisors, which created tension and hostility among employees.  Filipino-American employees were monitored, chastised and threatened by supervisors and other co-workers who constantly told them to speak English.
 During the press conference held at the APALC office in Los Angeles December 7, two of the plaintiffs, Wilma Lamug and Elnora Cayme, spoke about the unfair treatment they received from DRMC management.
“DRMC’s actions made us feel humiliated, isolated, and unvalued as employees.  Many of us, including myself, had worked hard for DRMC for ten or twenty years.   Despite our loyalty and years of service, we were shocked that DRMC singled out Filipino-American workers and blatantly discriminated against us,” said Plaintiff Wilma Lamug, a Licensed Vocational Nurse at DRMC for more than ten years.  
 Elnora Cayme, a licensed vocational nurse and respiratory therapist who has worked for DRMC for 27 years, said amid tears, “I have lived in Delano since I immigrated to the States in 1978 with my parents and siblings. DRMC is our community hospital. A majority of the hospital’s staff was made up of Filipino health care professionals. I don’t know why they treated us so unjustly, even if we were all so loyal and devoted to our jobs.”
“DRMC enforced an overly restrictive and draconian English-only policy against only its Filipino-American employees that cannot be justified by a business necessity.  As a result, DRMC created a workplace environment that was hostile towards its Filipino-American employees and unfortunately increased tensions between Filipino and non-Filipino employees,” said Julie A. Su, Litigation Director at APALC.
 APALC, on behalf of the employees, is moving to intervene in a lawsuit that was filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on August 18, 2010.  The EEOC’s lawsuit alleges that DRMC’s acts of national origin discrimination and harassment violate federal law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). 
APALC’s complaint alleges that DRMC violated federal law as well as California state law, specifically California ’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.  The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent future discrimination, as well as financial compensation from defendants for the employees.
According to EEOC, the hospital prohibited Filipino staff from speaking Tagalog while allowing non-Filipino employees to speak other languages, such as Spanish.  “Employers must ensure that company policies are applied equally,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles Dustrict Office. “Targeting workers of a particular national origin is not only illegal, it also erodes company morale – pitting groups against one another.”
Wilma Lamug said other Filipino-Americans who are victims of discrimination should not be afraid to speak up. “Don’t keep your mouth shut. Seek help like we did,” Lamug said. Elnora Cayme added, “Huwag kayong matakot o mahiya (Don’t be afraid or embarrassed.) Speak up for your rights.”
“An employer like DRMC with a diverse clientele should view an employee’s ability to speak another language as an asset, not a disadvantage. It is reprehensible that our clients were singled out for enforcement of the English only policy and harassed. Employers need to know that this type of discrimination and harassment on the basis of national origin is illegal,” said Carmina Ocampo , a staff attorney at APALC.  “We hope this case encourages other immigrant workers to do as these workers did, and stand up publicly and demand their rights.”




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