Nursing Home Companies Imposed English-Only Rule on Spanish Speakers While Permitting Other Foreign Languages in Workplace, EEOC Alleged
LOS ANGELES – Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., Skilled Healthcare, LLC, and other affiliated companies, will pay up to $450,000 and provide significant remedial relief to a class of Hispanic employees at its nursing homes and assisted living facilities who were subject to harassment, different terms and conditions of employment, promotion, compensation, and treatment through the implementation of an English-only rule that was only enforced against Hispanics, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
The EEOC filed suit in 2005 against the defendant companies alleging national origin discrimination on behalf of Hispanics under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, which approved the three-year consent decree settling the matter.
“As our country’s workforce becomes increasingly diverse, employers must be vigilant in ensuring that if English-only rules are necessary, they are not discriminatory,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “National origin discrimination is an abomination to our country, which was founded by immigrants and has prospered from welcoming immigrants.”
The lawsuit arose from a charge of discrimination by a monolingual janitor, Jose Zazueta, who was fired from defendants’ Royal wood Care Center in Torrance, Calif., for violating the company’s English-only policy. By contrast, other employees at defendants’ facilities who spoke Tagalog were not disciplined or terminated for speaking that language at work.
The EEOC identified a total of 53 current and former Hispanic employees at facilities in California and Texas who were subjected to disparate treatment and harassment based on their national origin and shared Spanish language. The EEOC alleged that some workers were prohibited from speaking Spanish to Spanish-speaking residents of the facility, or disciplined for speaking Spanish in the parking lot while on breaks. Additionally, the EEOC alleged that defendants gave Hispanic employees less desirable work than non-Hispanic counterparts, paid them less, and promoted them less often.
“The EEOC commends Skilled Healthcare for cooperating with us to establish meaningful mechanisms to advance equal employment opportunities for all workers,” said EEOC Los Angeles Regional Attorney Anna Park. “In the most diverse state in the nation, employers should not single out certain languages or cultures for harsher treatment.”As part of the, monetary relief for class members, the consent decree provides for the employers to offer English language classes to the 53 claimants. The three-year consent decree also requires that employees receive annual training regarding national origin discrimination; that defendants educate facility residents and patients regarding the rights of the employees under Title VII; that defendants designate an EEO monitor so that future discrimination complaints are closely monitored; and that defendants report annually to the EEOC regarding their employment practices.
EEOC’s Los Angeles District Director Olophius Perry added, “Employees and applicants should never be discriminated against because of their language or country of origin. To single out one language but not another for harsher treatment is old-fashioned discrimination.”
According to its web site, Skilled Health Care Group, Inc. operates skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and other facilities totaling 10,100 licensed beds in California, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Nevada, mostly in large urban or suburban markets.
In Fiscal Year 2008, national origin discrimination charge filings with EEOC offices nationwide increased to a record high 10,601, up 13% from the prior year. Of the total national origin cases, 204 involved English-only rules, up from 125 such cases in FY 2006 and 32 cases in FY 1996.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.