About 70 protesters from local Filipino groups, a labor union and other activists picketed last week in front of an Orange County nursing home that banned a union representative for speaking a foreign language at the facility.
The demonstrators called on the Hillhaven Convalescent Hospital in Orange to change its policy forbidding employees to speak foreign languages within earshot of patients--a policy the demonstrators believe discriminates against Filipinos and Latinos, who represent a growing number of health care workers.
Gabriel Espiritu of Glassel Park filed a complaint with federal labor authorities last month against the facility, charging discrimination based on national origin. A business representative for Local 399 of the Hospital and Service Employees' Union, Espiritu contends that he was reprimanded and banned from the facility after speaking the Philippine language Tagalog to a nurse during a visit to the facility on union business.
Hillhaven says the policy was put in place to ensure the comfort of elderly patients who may become disturbed or confused hearing foreign languages. Union attorneys, however, believe the policy violates state Department of Health regulations, which allow nursing home employees who are not in direct contact with patients to speak foreign languages on the job.