Seven Florida nurses who work at the Health Department clinic in Polk County said they were threatened with their jobs if they did not stop speaking Spanish at work.
The nurses, who are all Puerto Rican and say they were hired because they are bilingual, said they speak English with English-speaking patients and staff but speak Spanish with each other.
“We’re very respectful and we take into account when someone’s in the room or near us that doesn’t speak our language,” said clerk Maria Rivera. “We speak their language out of courtesy. It’s just right.”
In an interview with WFLA 8, a nurse complained that she felt uncomfortable as if the clinic were watching her and might fire her because she spoke her language.
“And it’s hard because I practically speak Spanish all day with the patients. The majority of the patients that come through the clinic speak Spanish, they don’t speak English. That’s why I was hired,” she added.
The equal employment opportunity commission states it’s illegal to require an employee to speak only English, except when it’s part of the company’s operations.
Another nurse, Mairyli Miranda, filed a complaint with the Polk County Health Department and has also reached out to the Tallahassee office. However, they say no action has been taken.
The Department of Health has not given its comment yet.