UMC tells workers to speak only in English
May 26, 2005

 By Lourdes Medrano

University Medical Center administrators had some explaining to do to employees after sending out an e-mail directing them to speak only English.
KOLD-TV, Channel 13, in its Tuesday newscast, reported that the e-mail sent out last week said that "a decision has been made to not allow our Support Services staff to use any language other than English on the job."
UMC President and CEO Greg Pivirotto declined to be interviewed Wednesday.
The hospital would not release the e-mail to the Arizona Daily Star.
In a statement released to employees Tuesday, Pivirotto still asked employees to speak only English at work, but clarified the previous e-mail:
"For safety reasons, and out of respect for those who are not bilingual, we are asking all staff members to speak English in work situations. This is not a formal policy, not a requirement, simply a request."
The statement also touches on the hospital's pride in the diversity of its work force.
"As part of our PRIDE values, we believe in respect for self and others. Our request is being made in that spirit."
Katie Riley, a UMC spokeswoman, wouldn't elaborate.
"We're viewing this as an internal matter," she said.
Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the original e-mail was cause for concern.
Employers can legally require workers to speak only English on the job, said O'Neill.
But if a particular group feels it is being targeted in the workplace, she said, "that's for sure problematic."
She said the original e-mail partly read: "We are requesting that other staff members not become involved in this issue."
That is a possible violation of civil rights, O'Neill said. Employees may interpret the statement as possible retaliation for reporting discrimination in the workplace.
O'Neill would not say if the EEOC is investigating the hospital.
Lucy Rosas, a trial attorney with the EEOC, said the re-worded statement may raise more questions with employees.
"People will want to know, how does this apply to me? How are you going to enforce it and what are the ramifications?" Rosas said.
It may well be a request, Rosas said, but managers sometimes implement requests "in a harsh way."
● Contact reporter Lourdes Medrano at 573-4347 or