Can nursing home forbid workers from speaking Spanish on duty? Employees say 'no'

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A handful of Spanish-speaking employees is fighting back, after the Pennsylvania nursing home that employs them told workers they could not use their lengua materna (native tongue) on the job, even during breaks or away from residents.

The case in question relates to Mountain View Care & Rehabilitation, a skilled-nursing provider in Scranton, PA. The nursing home reportedly asked five female nursing assistants to refrain from speaking Spanish anywhere on the premises — including break rooms, restrooms, the parking lot, etc.

A local attorney last week filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination, the Citizens' Voice newspaper reported. Those involved allege that they never spoke Spanish in front of residents or coworkers. And when they informed Mountain View leaders that they were offended by the policy, which went into effect in July, management allegedly “paid lip service” to their concerns, and did not explain why the policy was needed, according to the report.

A call to Mountain View leadership Monday was not immediately returned. But David Barmak, an attorney representing the nursing home, said officials were investigating the matter. “The facility's policy is to respect the rights of residents and employees and abide by all state and federal nondiscrimination requirements,” he told the Citizens' Voice.