Despite Needing to Be Bilingual for Job, Florida Nurses Told Not to Speak to Each Other in Spanish

Lead Photo: Photo by Getty
Photo by Getty
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At a clinic run by the Florida government, seven health care workers say they’re not allowed to speak to each other in Spanish or they could risk losing their jobs. The women, who work at the Florida Health Department clinic in Haines City, are required to know both English and Spanish because of the Latino patients, but they are discouraged from speaking to each other in Spanish.

Las Mesa Boricua de Florida, a community group, said on Monday that the nurses filed a complaint with human resources and wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Health, according to the Associated Press.

While there’s not enough information about why the clinic would allegedly tell the nurses they can’t speak Spanish, this attack on the language is nothing new. A few months ago, Katherine Hernández – a resident at a Salvation Army-run living space for low-income seniors – received a letter telling her that she couldn’t speak Spanish in the lobby or other common areas of the building.

Katherine received a letter from Director Mary McElhannon, which read, “The United States of America is an English speaking country and those who come to the United States or [are] born here should learn to speak the language. It is rude to sit in the lobby and speak Spanish when there is a resident sitting in the lobby as well who does not speak Spanish. The exclusion of the non-Spanish speaking person is unacceptable… Most of our residents speak English, however the conversation in the lobby and Activity Room is primarily Spanish. This is grossly unfair to the 25% who do not speak Spanish and needs to change.”

While McElhannon was fired, Katherine was upset that this was something she had to deal with at this stage of her life.