Dozens of Filipino hospital workers in California are suing their employer, claiming they were the only ethnic group targeted by a rule requiring them to speak only English.
The 52 nurses and other medical staff at Delano Regional Medical Center in the San Joaquin Valley said they were told not to speak Tagalog and other Filipino languages, even to each other, even on breaks.
However, they say other workers were allowed to speak Spanish and Hindi.
The Filipino employees said they were called to a special meeting in August 2006 and were warned not to speak in their native tongue. They claim they were told surveillance cameras would be installed to monitor them, if necessary. Since then, workers said they officials told them on a daily basis to speak only English.
"I felt like people were always watching us," said Elnora Cayme, who worked for the hospital from 1980 to 2008. "Even when we spoke English ... people would come and approach us and tell us, 'English only.'"
The plaintiffs are seeking to join an August complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the hospital's enforcement of the English-only a rule.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC accused the hospital of creating a hostile working environment for Filipinos by singling them out for reprimands and for encouraging other staff to report them. The agency is seeking an injunction to protect the workers against future discrimination.
Under California law, employers may require workers to speak English if there is a business necessity.