Discrimination for having an Accent... Filipino-Americans won Lawsuit

  1. This is related to the blog/article posted below, so you might want to read that first. In any case, being an immigrant myself, I am always concerned about stories of discrimination. While allnurses.com has a policy that English is the only language to be type here, that makes for a very easy world...why? because none of the readers can hear my or anyone's foreign accent.
    Being part of allnurses.com for almost 4 years, I've read lots of comments concerning foreign nurses, be they directed to foreign-American nurses who are citizens or legal immigrants working in the system. The article below points to the case of filipino-american nurses being discriminated against for either having an accent or talking in their native language at work. Yes, I understand that many are offended by this practice and have the dissulusionment that English should be the only language spoken at the workplace because we are in fact in an English speaking country. I've read comments where some feel they are isolated from the foreign nurses when they do that. I too understand that plight, but I also understand the need to just relax and be oneself.
    Ever so often at my job(non nurse related) I get comments from customers saying "oh I love your accent, you speak English very well"...and my response would be "Well I'm from an English speaking country" and then they looked surprised.The funny thing is I have almost lost all of my dialect/accent because when I speak to my relatives they say "why you sounding like an American?" Given the fact that I could speak my original English dialect it would be useless here because noone would understand a word I an saying even though I am still speaking English. However, when I meet a customer from my own country then I feel I could just be myself and talk our own "english" without constantly asking what the other is saying or without me having to slow done my speech to deliberately speak with clarity.However, this is inevitable, because I too wish to be understood.
    I believe this is true for other international workers here in the United States. I do not feel that anyone should be rediculed or discriminated against because of their accent or because they just want a break from English, to speak their own language. I highly doubt they are slandering anyones name being your backs just because they are speaking differently. I understand in American culture this is seen as being rude, but for us it is nothing more, nothing less that wanting to be accepted for who we are.
    Granted that from our viewpoint, its the Americans who have the accent and I know this first hand, because my wife is ALL American. She has a heavy southern accent, and when she gets in that mood ever so often after speaking to some of her relatives, then she talks to me, I can barely make out a word she says. So these misunderstands and miscommunication goes both ways.
    I am not a filipino-american...I've been inducted to be an African-American...but Trinidad and Tobago is where I originated and English is our official language too, but some also speak spanish because they want to learn it, others speak creole because it is their heritage, more than 1/3 my country also speaks Hindi, due to their East Indian culture and their are many other languages spoken there because we have so many different cultures.
    If a small island 1.2million people can accept so many differences, why is America not so willing to accept being "a nation of immigrants"?
    How do you feel about foreign nurses speaking their original language in the work place or if they speak English, is there still that barrier of lacking understand due to the heavy accented English? I ask these questions, provided that they have absolutely nothing to do with patient care, and assuming that no matter the language, care is not compromised and these nurses provide the same great care as anyone qualified to do so.

    Last edit by ArrowRN on Oct 8, '12
  2. Visit ArrowRN profile page

    About ArrowRN, BSN, RN

    Joined: Feb '08; Posts: 1,189; Likes: 1,341


  3. by   herring_RN
    Almost 40 years ago I started as an LVN on the 3P to 11:30 pm shift. The two RNs were schoolmates from the Philippines.
    My first day of orientation they told me that if I heard them speaking Tagalog they were not talking about me. They were talking about boyfriends.
    I learned so much from those fine nurses. One especially taught me in a tactful way to organize my time. She is a friend to this day.

    I can imagine that IF they had been saying things I didn't understand and furtively glancing at me I would have felt left out and that they were noticing my dandruff or my shoes hadn't been polished recently.

    On breaks or with a patient who understands it is just plain wrong and illegal to prohibit speaking another language. Every few years some employer tries to discipline nurses for this. The nurses always prevail.
  4. by   Glycerine82
    I don't have a problem with people speaking their first language, but I do have a problem when it's in the company if others. I find it no different than whispering. I see no reason to speak another language than English in mixed company unless you don't want people around you to know what you're saying. Now, in a break room or between only those two people I have no problem with it. Maybe I'm just insecure, I don't know. Every time I get my nails done i feel like the Asian women in front of me are saying " hey look at this dummy" lol. Now, I've had them stop and translate for me and I found that much nicer. The one was making fun of the other, teasing like. I just think a little respect and understanding goes a long way.

    "No day but today"
  5. by   Asystole RN
    Communicate in a manner that is understood by all those you are in company with. To do anything less is extremely rude.
  6. by   herring_RN
    It is very subjective.
    On some shifts our housekeepers speak Spanish with all who understand it.
    When we have a conversation we use Spanglish automatially. It works well whether work related or in the break room.

    The nurses I posted about were so considerate of all patients and staff it would have been cruel to criticize because before having a conversation they asked if it would bother enyone. After my first week they knew it didn't bother me.

    I understand that it can be rude. I've had colleagues be rude in English too. Either way I've learned by experience to speak up. It is very rare for a nurse to continue to be rude purposefully.
  7. by   Asystole RN
    I went back and read the article.

    The nurses did not win the lawsuit, they settled. The settlement for $1M between 68 nurses sounds like the nurses broke even on legal expenses and the hospital cut their losses.

    The hospital was sued not because foreign languages were banned, the hospital was sued because Tagalog specifically was banned.
  8. by   herring_RN
    Quote from Asystole RN
    I went back and read the article.

    The nurses did not win the lawsuit, they settled. The settlement for $1M between 68 nurses sounds like the nurses broke even on legal expenses and the hospital cut their losses.

    The hospital was sued not because foreign languages were banned, the hospital was sued because Tagalog specifically was banned.
    Thank you.
  9. by   akulahawkRN
    I personally do not mind other people speaking other languages around me. However, there is a common language that should be used whenever it involves care of another. That language is the common language of the region. In the US, it's English. If you're talking to me, with me, or with another provider about patient care, speak English. That way we can all understand quickly what is needed. I have had co-workers speak Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Hindu... all because it enhanced patient care because that's what the patient spoke and spoke that language only with the patient. Otherwise, English was spoken.

    Also, English may be the only common language that exists between provider and patient... both may be multi-lingual but have only English as the common language between them. Should I move to a place that primarily speaks a different language, I would endeavor to learn that language and use it instead of my own primary language. It's only respectful.