Seven Puerto Rican health professionals, including nurses, claimed that they would be fired for speaking Spanish on the job to one another. A supervisor reportedly made the threat, according to Remezcla. The women are employees at a Florida Health Department clinic in Polk County.
The women said during a news conference on Monday they were hired due to their ability to speak Spanish with patients in the Haines City clinic. The women are bilingual. They have since filed a discrimination complaint with Human Resources as well as wrote a letter to the Florida Health Department. The supervisor’s alleged on-the-job threat could be a discrimination violation of federal workplace directives.
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One of the staff nurses said that they were vigilant about speaking English when they were around non-Spanish-speaking patients and staff. However, they preferred to talk to one another in their native language when speaking with one another. One nurse told an NBC affiliate, WFLA, that she found it difficult to go back and forth between English and Spanish with other nurses because Spanish served as their default language in their primary duties.
“I don’t feel comfortable. I feel like if I speak Spanish, they’re watching me, they’re gonna fire me, they’re gonna do something because I’m speaking my language. And it’s hard because I practically speak Spanish all day with the patients,” she said. “The majority of the patients that come through the clinic speak Spanish; they don’t speak English. That’s why I was hired.”
Another nurse, who has worked at the facility for seven years, Mairylí Miranda said: “They are always making condescending comments and going after us.”
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that companies cannot restrict the language of its employees. It would be a violation of their civil rights. It is a violation “if it is applied at all times in the workplace,” but such policies may be lawful “in limited circumstances,” such as promoting “safe and efficient business operations.”