Filipina Nurses Fired for Speaking Tagalog During “Nursing Shortage”

Four Filipinas who were working in the Emergency Room of Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore were summarily fired, allegedly for speaking Tagalog on the job. The hospital has an English only policy in the emergency room, but the nurses and  secretary contend that they were only speaking Tagalog while taking a break. “I feel I was harassed and discriminated against because of my national origin,” nurse Hachelle Natano explained.  The fired women have since filed a discrimination lawsuit.

I really don’t have a problem with an English-only rule when doing job activities. As the article points out, good communications in the Emergency Room can be critical to saving lives. That’s quite reasonable. If the nurses were only speaking Tagalog on their break, then that’s quite unreasonable. In addition, one of the women was a secretary who wasn’t directly involved in patient care.  Moreover, they were dismissed immediately with no written or oral warning and with no documentation on where they broke the rule. The nurses’ lawyer, Arnedo Valera, believes the English-only rule at Bon Secours Hospital was too broad and so lacking in clear guidelines to be fairly and legally implemented. “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.” Perhaps they were saying the name of the hospital, which ironically means “good help” in a language other than English.

Another thing that struck me about this firing is that this happened in the middle of a supposed “nursing shortage.”  If these nurses are such a scarce commodity so treasured, why were they fired so quickly?  One wonders why new nursing graduates have trouble finding jobs.  The Wife’s cousin had a business recruiting nurses in the Philippines, but she shut it down as hospitals no longer needed her services.   Perhaps the medical industry is trying to increase the supply of nurses in order to hold down the cost of nurses wages.   If so, that’s bad news for the fired nurses.

[Image credit: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons]

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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