Published on:

EEOC Settlement fines Regional Medical Center for language discrimination

The EEOC recently obtained a settlement against the Delano
Regional Medical Center (DRMC) of Bakersfield, California, which included a
fine of $975,000. The DRMC had been accused of harassing and discriminating
against 70 Filipino-American employees based on their national origin. Most
damningly, the discriminatory activities originated at the top levels of the
DRMC management. In the most egregious instance, an employee claimed a staffer
sprayed air freshener on the employee’s lunch to demonstrate her hatred of
Filipino food.

The employees alleged that they were subject to
discrimination when speaking in a Filipino accent or in native Filipino
languages. Supervisors and staff were told to monitor the employees and to
reprimand and berate them when those languages were used. The staff ordered the
employees to speak English, constantly harassed them, and told them to return
to the Philippines. The origin of the discriminatory behavior was allegedly a
meeting between top management and the Filipino-American staff at which management
threatened the employees and warned about the possible installation of
surveillance equipment to monitor their conversations. Non-Filipino staff who spoke
languages other than English were not disciplined. After years of harassment,
115 Filipino-American staff members filed a petition to the DRMC, but
management failed to investigate the allegations or bring about any changes in
policy.

As part of the settlement, the DRMC agreed to
adopt a Title VII-compliant language policy and to modify its employment
discrimination code of conduct. The DRMC stated the settlement was simply a way
to bring the case to an economically-reasonable conclusion, and denied
responsibility for the alleged harassment. The settlement represents a victory
in the EEOC’s recent push to promote non-discriminatory practices by employers
hiring Asian-American workers. As always, employees should consult with an
attorney if faced with discrimination on account of national origin.