The Latinx community in Haines City, Florida makes up 45 percent of the population which is why seven Spanish-speaking nurses were hired at a government-run clinic and now they’re saying supervisors warned them against speaking Spanish to each other.
During a press conference organized by a local advocacy organization, Alianza for Progress, one of the nurses said the reason for the warning was because someone had taken offense to them speaking Spanish. A statement from the community group La Mesa Boricua de Florida says the group filed a human resources complaint and wrote letters to the Florida Department of Health and Polk County Health Department. They say no action has been taken.
“It feels like you’re a criminal like you’re doing something that is wrong,” Mairylí Miranda, a nurse who has lived in Florida for 15 years, said to Tampa station Bay News 9.
The nurses said the job required they be bilingual because of Spanish-speaking patients. Miranda says she and her coworkers speak in English with non-Spanish-speaking patients and staff but prefer Spanish when speaking with each other. During the press conference, the women also said they weren’t given details about who was offended or a specific reason as to why speaking Spanish was offensive.
“We’re very respectful and we take into account when someone’s in the room or near us that doesn’t speak our language,” clerk Maria Rivera told Bay News 9. “We speak their language out of courtesy. It’s just right.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states English-only rules may violate federal laws unless they are “justified by business necessity.” English and Spanish are both official languages in Puerto Rico, which is U.S. territory, and their bilingual capabilities were one of the reasons they were hired so for it to be used against them is wrong.
Last week another Puerto Rican woman had to defend her freedom of speech in the instance of having the Puerto Rican flag placed outside her home. Under her homeowners’ association’s law, Florida state law people are not protected to have any other flag other than an American flag, a Florida state flag, or military flags.
But she, like the nurses, is fighting back. The Florida Department of Health has received several requests for a statement but has yet to address their complaint.
“We just want someone who can be a good leader, you know?” said nurse Laura Rivera told Bay News 9. “Because if you can’t work with different cultures, I think you’re not a good person to be a leader.”