Strength In Unity Eludes Fil Ams in English Only Policy Case

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – How do you feel if a teacher gives you an assignment while you are in a time-out room?

You might grudgingly agree.  After all, the teacher will not really be able to find out if you are doing your “room work” or not. Your only problem: the teacher had installed a monitoring camera that would record your every move.

This is exactly what the Delano Regional Medical Center in Central California did to the more than 300 Filipino American employees, who constitute the majority of the acute care hospital at San Joaquin Valley.

During break time, Filipino employees were strictly followed closely by housekeepers or security guards at the break rooms, hallways and the cafeteria if they were not speaking English and report them.

Maybe I will agree with the hospital management to monitor my kababayans (country mates) for talking Tagalog or Ilocano if their voices are so loud as to disturb the workplace. After all, California is one of the 27 states that had adopted English as its official language.

But if these Filipinos are speaking in modulated volume and their voices cannot be heard across a nearby table, I don’t think they should be penalized for speaking Filipino language.

If only all the more than 300 Filipino employees out of the 600 total hospital employes came forward to join the class of complainants against the hospital’s English-only policy, the initial complainants of about 106 would have strengthened the bond of Filipinos instead of disintegrating into 69 as a result of attrition until the case reached the trial stage.

Had the case came to a jury trial, it would have strengthened the hand of the class of Filipino complainants to secure a declaration from the court that the hospital was at fault for discriminating against its Filipino employees. They could have asked the court to let the hospital agree that it committed mistakes and should promise not to repeat the same mistakes. They could even secure an apology from the hospital. Who knows the hospital might have been ordered to pay more than the $975,000 the 69 complainants stand to collect.

Perhaps if the same discriminatory policy will be repeated by the same hospital or other employers, the Filipino Americans have now learned a transformational lesson that there is strength in numbers.

But Atty. Anna Y. Park, chief of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Los Angeles, California, explained that if the DRMC violates the consent decree, hospital employees could always come forward and file a new complaint. The federal court has jurisdiction over the consent decree that provides injunction against retaliation and injunction against the hospital for running after those, who complained against it, for its discriminatory policy of imposing the English-only policy only to Filipinos but not to other Mexicans, who speak Spanish; Indians, who speak Hindi; etc.

The hospital even made fun of the Filipino accent. Even if Filipinos were already speaking English, they are still accused of not speaking English.

BALIMBINGS DO NOT DESERVE BENEFITS

Attorney Park feels that the Filipino employees were not really shortchanged with the consent decree, saying it (the consent decree) “is very uncommon that the defendants accept wrongdoing. It is not unusual but DRMC accepted change in policy and three-year commitment.  Under federal law, the English-only policy of DRMC is not illegal.  But the way the DRMC harassed and targeted and enforced the policy against the Filipinos made it illegal.”

To carry out the consent decree, DRMC will not only be paying up nearly a million dollars ($975,000) to complainants and legal fees, they will also be a hiring a monitor, who will make sure that the consent decree is carried out. The decree has “very strong language that is very meaningful if taken seriously.

“Imagine, the DMRC will hire a monitor, do training, do recording, change the policies the way they do operations does not happen anymore. Everything the hospital agreed to is specific to this to make sure that six years of suffering by claimants will no longer be there as our goal. It created many changes for many people and the entire hospital.”

The monitor will make an independent report to EEOC semi-annually and annually specifically for doing the job and to submit work document. We work on third party, recording at the end, training and review, we ok his work or not. If there is report of violation of decree, we monitor and the monitor gives us the report. Monitor does monitor what the company does. If there are changes in policy, we have to know.”

But the part of the settlement that is bothersome to me is its magnanimous provision that those other Filipino American employees, who were fence-sitters who did not join the class, can still join the class of the complainants and part with the $975,000 benefit. But if the benefits were gone, these Johnny-come-latelies would get nothing.

But these employees should keep in mind the Biblical injunction in Galatians 6:7, which says, “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

If these employees did not join the class earlier in filing the case, do they really deserve the benefits of those who suffered for filing and following up the case? Those who risked losing their job or those who risked retaliation for filing the complaint?

Lest they forget, there is saying among the Filipinos: “Ako ang nagtanim. Ako ang nag-ani. Ako ang nagbayo. Ako ang naghain. Iba ang kumain.” (I was the one, who planted the rice. I was the one, who harvested it. I was the one, who pounded it. I was the one, who cooked it. Yet, somebody else was going to eat it.)

I hope these hundreds of Filipino employees should leave the benefits to the gritty 69 Filipino complainants alone. Otherwise, they may end up becoming balimbings (hated turncoats or traitors). (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 

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