Nursing Home Operator Settles Workplace Discrimination Suit

The Los Angeles Times reported today that a southern California based healthcare outfit operating nursing homes settled an EEOC-initiated class action lawsuit.

Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. which has nursing care facilities in 6 states, was alleged to have enforced an “English-only” against Spanish-speaking employees, but not against native speakers of other languages.

If true, this is roundly discriminatory and patently unnecessary. Two employees on their break in the parking lot should be free to speak with each other in whatever language they so choose. A Spanish speaking janitor should be able to warn another Spanish speaking employee in Spanish about a wet floor so that the employee does not slip and fall.

Most disturbingly, the suit alleged that nursing staff who spoke Spanish were forbidden to speak in Spanish with Spanish speaking patients.

Not only is that discriminatory and unnecessary, but it does a medical disservice to the patients in the nursing facilities which the defendant operates. I can’t imagine my employer forbidding me from conducting a potential client intake conversation in Spanish.

I wonder if the employer would forbid a nurse from communicating in American Sign Language with a deaf patient? Surely not. And that difference only further highlights that a policy such is this in a healthcare context is based not on anything pragmatic but on merely on discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and national origin.

Workplace discrimination takes on many forms, but this is among the more bizarre, jingoistic and xenophobic manifestations I’ve read about in some time. My concern is that as American unemployment rates continue to creep up, so too will instances of overt discrimination against immigrant populations.