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California Nurses Assn. files complaint alleging discrimination against Filipinos at Bay Area hospital

August 19, 2010 |  9:57 pm

The California Nurses Assn. has filed a class-action grievance against Sacramento-based Sutter Health and the company’s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, alleging that hospital managers refused to hire Filipino nurses.

On Thursday, union officials and Bay Area Filipino activists called on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to investigate the discrimination claims.

Three former managers at California Pacific Medical Center, which also operates St. Luke’s Hospital, submitted statements to the commission alleging that between 2007 and 2009, supervisors told them not to hire Filipino nurses. The union also submitted records showing the percentage of Filipino nurses at the hospital dropped from 65% to 10% in 2008.

“There can be no excuse for racial or ethnic discrimination,” Zenei Cortez, a registered nurse and union official, said in a statement Thursday.

More than 35 Filipino community groups signed a letter to the hospital calling for officials to investigate the allegations.

“Sutter’s discriminatory practices against Filipino nurses is as much about denying job opportunities as it is about punishing unionized Filipina nurses at St. Luke’s who stood up to Sutter’s plans to cut services to our community,” said Lillian Galedo of Oakland-based Filipino Advocates for Justice.

The union has been locked in a contract dispute with Sutter for three years. Sutter officials dismissed the lawsuit as a negotiating ploy.

“We pride ourselves on our diverse hiring policies and our longstanding commitment to promoting equal opportunity employment,” Dr. Warren Browner, California Pacific Medical Center’s chief executive, said in a statement, calling the allegations “dishonest and without merit.”

Browner said Sutter does not track how many of its nurses are Filipino, but said the percentage of Asian nurses at St. Luke’s has actually risen slightly, from 63% in 2007 to 66% today.

“We stand by our record as an employer that is committed to diversity,” Browner said.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske