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December 09, 2004
Health Center Settles English-First Dispute

The Whittier Street Health Center in Boston has agreed to a settlement with Hispanic employees who opposed a policy that urged them to speak English when greeting patients and at other times on the job, the Boston Globe reports.

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The health center agreed to amend its customer-service policy and strike disciplinary warnings from the personnel files of employees who refused to stop speaking Spanish to one another.

In settling the dispute, the company denied any wrongdoing. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board mediated the settlement.

The company said the English-first policy at the center of the dispute was prompted by complaints from patients.

The amended policy states that patients should be greeted in English unless the client prefers another language. The revised policy reminds workers to keep personal conversations to a minimum when working where patients are present, but workers can use languages other than English whenever necessary when no patients are present, the newspaper reports.


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