Discrimination in the medical industry: Know and act

By Allison Dean

In recent years, blatant instances of discrimination against Filipinos in the medical industry have come to light. Some of the highly publicized cases have come to light and they happened all across the country – including one on nationwide TV.

In San Francisco, Sutter California Pacific Medical Center was sued by the California Nurses Association (CNA), which found that Filipino Registered Nurses (RNs) were being discriminated against per the medical center’s hiring practices. The medical center’s management reportedly instructed supervisors specifically not to hire people of Filipino origin; this was an order that was put into effect between 2006 and 2008. According to a CNA press release, “Before February 2008, 65 percent of St Luke’s RNs were Filipino. After February 2008, only 10 percent of RNs hired were Filipino.” How the center got away with its crooked hiring practices for so long is a question not yet answered.

In Baltimore, four Filipino nurses — Corina Yap, Anna Rosales, Hazel Granada and Hachelle Natano — brought a wrongful-termination lawsuit against their employer, Bon Secours Health System. The nurses, who won their case, claimed that the hospital fired them for speaking their native language, i.e. Tagalog, at the hospital. In November of 2009, a policy was enacted at the medical center in Baltimore that required all medical personnel to speak only English in the workplace. According to an ABS-CBN North America News Bureau report, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Director Gerald Kiel “concluded that the Filipina nurses were subjected to ‘unequal terms and conditions of employment, [a] hostile work environment, [and] disciplinary action and discharge because of their national origin.’”

As in Baltimore, the EEOC filed a complaint in 2010 against the Delano Regional Medical Center in California for its English-only policy in the work place. The complaint states that the hospital created a “hostile working environment” for Filipino nurses.

Protesting the ABC show’s insult of Philippine-educated doctors. Photo: NaFFAA

Talk about art imitating life. ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” ran an episode in which a main character, played by Teri Hatcher, makes a blatant discriminatory remark about Filipino doctors. After being told by her doctor that she may be going through menopause, the doubting character’s response is: “Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines.”

These instances of discrimination raise the most important question: When will the discrimination stop?

If you’ve endured discrimination at your health care job and are still employed, here is what you should do (If you’ve been fired, skip to step 4):

1. Act now. There is a statute of limitations on when you may file your legal complaint. If you wait too long, even if you are completely in the right, the law can do nothing to rectify the situation.
2. Inform your supervisor of the discrimination you incurred; give dates and all relevant details.
3. If no action is taken, file a complaint per your company’s complaint procedures.
4. If nothing is done to rectify your situation, you must act quickly to notify proper authorities. File a complaint with the EEOC.
5. Track everything you can on paper. Make copies of your complaints, track which dates you sent them, write down the date/s you were discriminated against as well as the details of the circumstances. Make notes of phone calls, conversations, and so on. Keep and print emails.
6. Be careful of what you say, and to whom you say things to.
7. Seek a lawyer to see if you have a workplace discrimination case.

Allison Dean is a writer whose articles provide information on what to do if they become a victim of discrimination in the workplace. She writes for Medical Malpractice Lawyers.

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