A group of nurses who work at a Florida Department of Health clinic allege they have been told not to speak Spanish among themselves while on the job or risk being fired.
The seven employees, who are from Puerto Rico, claim they have been harassed for over a year by management, Bay News 9 reported.
“It feels like you’re a criminal, like you’re doing something that is wrong. Never in my life did I think I was going to go through a situation like this one.” said Mairyli Miranda, one of the seven clinic workers.
The clinic workers— who work at a Florida Health Department Clinic in Haines City— said the state specifically hired them because they were bilingual. Haines City also has a relatively high Hispanic population, with 45 percent of the city’s residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Management allegedly told the women that speaking in Spanish would not be tolerated, even though the clinic workers say they accommodate different cultures.
“We speak in English to the monolingual patients and staff, but we speak Spanish with each other because we think in Spanish. But one day they gathered us all together and warned us that if we continued to do so, we would be fired,” Miranda said in a statement. “But there is no law that bans us from speaking Spanish.”
The women have filed a complaint with the Polk County Health Department and wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Health office in Tallahassee. The women say no action has been taken by either agency.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that English-only rules may be a violation of federal law unless “justified by business necessity.”