Friday, July 9, 2010
MARYLAND TRIBUNAL SIDES WITH PINAY NURSES
A Maryland judge has sided with one of three Filipina nurses fired from a Baltimore hospital last April for speaking Tagalog.
Administrative Judge Stuart Breslow, in a June 30 ruling, said Filipina nurse Corina Yap should receive unemployment benefits.
Filipina nurses Yap, Anna Rosales and Hachelle Natano, and Fil-Am hospital employee Jazziel Granada were dismissed by Bon Secours Hospital for allegedly violating a rule requiring them to speak only in English while on duty at the Emergency Room.
State authorities had initially disqualified her from the benefits because the hospital said Yap was fired for grave misconduct.
But Judge Breslow disagreed.
“Her actions were not intended to deliberately violate the directive, but were merely an inadvertent action on her part to greet and talk to a fellow employee in their native tongue,” he declared.
“At no time during these encounters did any discussion about a patient take place and no patient was placed at risk as a result of her actions,” the judge stressed.
Lawyer Arnedo Valera, counsel for the dismissed hospital workers, said the administrative court ruling bolstered their arguments that the Filipinas were unfairly treated and deprived of due process.
While they do not question the hospital’s English-only rule, Valera alleges the Filipinas were singled out because of their country of origin.
He added that the hospital’s English-only rule was so broad and lacking in clear guidelines that made it nearly unenforceable. He asked, for instance, whether uttering a single non-English word like the name of a foreign food or a word of greeting was sufficient to fire a hospital worker.
“Based on that single page paper they signed, there is simply no way to determine what constitutes a dismissable offense,” he opined.
Valera noted the hospital could not cite specific instances where or when the alleged violations took place.
The nurses contend they spoke Tagalog only at the nurses’ station during break time and never in front of a patient.
Only Yap filed the appeal to get the benefits before the Maryland Department of Labor because her job at Bon Secours Hospital was her main source of income.
“The Employer has a right to expect that its employees will follow its policies and directives,” Judge Breslow said.
“While failure to abide by the directive may be considered misconduct, the one instance where the Claimant discussed a patient with another employee in her native language and the other incidents of inadvertently greeting an employee in her native language are not found to be a deliberate and willful disregard of standards that the Employer had the right to expect,” he concluded.
Valera said they plan to introduce the Maryland administrative court’s ruling as additional evidence in the discrimination complaint they filed last month before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The nurses are also mulling a separate civil suit for damages against Bon Secours Hospital.