Hospital Agrees To Pay Tagalog Speakers $975K

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (jGLi) – For telling Filipino employees not to speak Filipino languages in its workplace, a hospital in Eastern California decided not to go on trial after being accused of discrimination on the basis of national origin by its Filipino employees for breaking its English-only policy and is willing to pony up close to one million dollars as a form of restitution to the Filipino employees.

Lawyers led by Anna Y. Park, Michael J. Farrell, Peter Laura and Rumduol Vuong, all of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission based in Los Angeles, California; Laboni A. Hoq of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), representing the Filipino employees, Douglas Abdon, et al.;  and Robert D. Harding and John R. Szewczyk of the Clifford & Brown, representing Central California Foundation for Health (dba or doing business as) Delano Regional Medical Center (DRMC) based in Delano, California signed a “Memorandum of Settlement Terms And For Notification To Court of Settlement Contingent Upon Agreement on All Terms of a Consent Decree” last June 21, 2012.

In the Settlement, defendant DRMC agreed to “pay to Plaintiff and Plaintiffs-in-Intervention, jointly and severally, the sum of $975,000.” If all the 63 Filipino employees will get the settlement, each of them will be entitled to a roughly to $15,476 each.

The Settlement also agreed to draft a Consent Decree within 30 days “following June 21, 2012.” It shall include provision for an outside monitor and a term of three years and shall include all terms of the settlement.

The APALC shall act as settlement administrator and disbursing agent for the settlement funds and the USEEOC and APALC shall determine eligibility, settlement participation criteria, and other incidents of disbursement of the settlement funds. Neither Plaintiff USEEOC nor Defendant DRMC shall have responsibility for disbursement of the settlement funds.

RETIRED JUDGE INVOLVED IN SETTLEMENT

Retired U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger for the Eastern District of California has notified Judge O’Neill that “this case has settled” and a copy of this settlement memorandum shall act as “Notification of Settlement and shall be filed with the Court.”

Judge O’Neill immediately ordered the “global settlement” of the case “no later than July 23, 2012.”

Two of the complaining Filipinos, who have not “meaningfully prosecuted” their claims and have “failed to participate in settlement of this action,” were ordered “no later than July 6, 2012” by Judge O’Neill “to file and serve papers to show good cause why this court should not dismiss” their claims for failure to prosecute.

O’Neill’s order dated June 22, 2012 admonished Elizabeth C. Matias of 3700 Block of Seycamore Creek Drive, Bakersfield and Venus Pagsuberon of the 400 Block of Avenida Valencia, Camarillo, both of California, that “this court will dismiss” their claims if they fail to respond to his order.

Both Mesdames Matias and Pagsuberon could not be reached for comment. Matias’ listed phone number “is full” and does not accept phone messages while Ms. Pagsuberon’s phone number is unlisted.

The surprise resolution of the case came after counsel for the plaintiffs (Filipino employees) refused to be deposed by defendants (DRMC) because it was an “improper intrusion on the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine.”

The DRMC wanted to depose the U.S. EEOC representatives and the EEOC’s Person Most Knowledgeable (Senior Trial Attorney Peter Laura).
The deposition is part of the discovery motion that arose after EEOC accused defendants (DRMC) of violating the Filipino employees’ Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Filipinos were subjected in a “class of similarly situated individuals to disparate treatment with respect to the terms, conditions and privileges of their employment because of their Filipino national origin” and were subjected “to a hostile work environment in violation of Section 703 of the same title (Title VII).

COMPLAINANTS

The original complainants in the case are Douglas Abdon, David Agbayani, Rebecca Aguinaldo, Pacita Agustin, Manuela Aninion, Melchor Apostol, Ednalyn Arciaga, Angelita Baligad, Nena Ballesteros, Ferdinand Baraceros, Elizabeth Batchar, Charito Bilog, Maria Busto, Belen Cabcab, Michelle Cabcab, Fely Cacal, Normi Cacal, Erlinda Camotuya, Herminia Carino, Esther Casabar, Nora Casimiro, Elnora Cayme, Gina Correa, Armeliza de la Cruz, Ester de los Santos, Hilda Ducusin, Anafe Escorpiso, Aida Estrella, Florentina Failano, Eduardo Frial, Consolacion Galafate, Jovena Gallegos, Luz Gallegos; Tomasa Gumallaoi, Melinda Intoc, Calixto Lamug, Wima Lamug, Anielyn Manalastas, Romeo Manalastas, Maribelle Manankil, Sol Manaois, Elizabeth Matias, Joselito Munoz, Cristina Nelmida, Nelson Nisperos, Venus Pagsuberon, Priscilla Penalosa, Evangeline Picato, Jose Pira, Federico Quiniones,  Nannette Quino, Teresita Rafanan, Sixto Ramos, Melanie Refuerzo, Arsenia Ringor, Marilou Riola, Patricia Serafica, Maria Teresa Solano, Necita Tabajonda, Myrna Torres, Vilma Tutop, Elena Villamor and Romeo Villamor.

The complainants are former and current Filipino-American hospital employees of the  DRMC, which prohibited them from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages while other ethnic groups employed in the hospital were not held to a similar standard.

The APALC’s complaint said only Filipino American employees were required to attend mandatory meetings with management. At the meetings, the Filipinos were told they were prohibited from speaking Filipino languages in the workplace.

They were reprimanded and threatened to be monitored with the use of audio surveillance that could result in discipline and suspension.

The DRMC also encouraged other employees to report Filipinos American employees to their supervisors, “which created tension and hostility among employees.”

ABILITY TO SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE AN ASSET

The Filipinos were also “chastised and threatened by supervisors and other co-workers.” They were constantly reminded to speak English.

“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,” according to complainant, Wilma Lamug, a licensed vocational nurse at DRMC for more than ten years.

“An employer like DRMC with a diverse clientele should view an employees’ 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,” according to Carmina Ocampo, a staff attorney at APALC. “We hope this case encourages other immigrant workers to do as they workers did, and stand up publicly and demand their rights.”  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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