Nurses barred from speaking Spanish to each other at Florida clinic, complaint claims

Seven nurses of Puerto Rican descent said they were told they could lose their job for speaking Spanish among themselves at the Florida Health Department clinic in Haines City, according to NBC affiliate WFLA.

A community group called La Mesa Boricua de Florida filed a human resources complaint on the nurses' behalf and wrote a letter to the Florida Department of Health, the group said in a statement Aug. 19.

The nurses say they speak English with English-speaking patients but frequently speak Spanish with each other. One nurse told WFLA she is bewildered by the clinic's demands, since she was hired in part to speak with Spanish-speaking patients.

It is illegal to forbid employees from speaking a particular language outside of a company's operations, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Officials from the commission will be investigating the allegations this week, the clinic said in an email to Becker's.

"The Florida Department of Health is committed to a fair and respectful environment that is free from any form of discrimination," the clinic said. "At this time, the Florida Department of Health cannot comment on any pending Equal Employment Opportunity investigation as they are confidential until completed."

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