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Nurses Allege Employment Discrimination at SF Hospitals

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2010

Lengthy contract talks between the California Nurses Association and Sutter Health's California Pacific Medical Center, and St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco turned toxic last week when the union filed a grievance with the city claiming that Sutter had imposed a hiring ban on Filipino nurses.

At a press conference, CNA and Filipino community and church groups have asked the San Francisco Human Rights Commission to investigate their allegations of "systematic" employment discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin.

"St. Luke's and CPMC RNs, many of them Filipino, have been outspoken in defense of their patients, and in opposition to Sutter and CPMC's plans to reduce services to the largely lower income, minority community depending on St. Luke's from SOMA to the Excelsior," said CNA Co-president Zenei Cortez, RN.

 "Rather than respond to the concerns of the community, CPMC and Sutter have chosen instead to retaliate by carrying out a punitive, illegal, and immoral campaign of discrimination," said Cortez. "There can be no excuse for racial or ethnic discrimination. A hospital should be a center of therapeutic healing for patients, not a model of bigotry."

CPMC CEO Warren Browner, MD, called the accusations "false and designed to cover up the union's own failure to win a contract despite three years of negotiations."

"We pride ourselves on our diverse hiring policies and our longstanding commitment to promoting equal opportunity employment," Browner said. "The allegations of discrimination made by the California Nurses Association are dishonest and without merit."

CNA said the hospitals' hiring data supports the discrimination complaint, and details a major demographic shift among the nurses being hired at St Luke's that began in early 2008. Before February 2008, 65% of St Luke's RNs were Filipino. After February 2008, only 10% of RNs hired were Filipino.

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