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American Scene: Filipinos win settlement in English-only lawsuit

- - Monday, September 17, 2012

DELANO — Dozens of Filipino hospital workers in California will share a nearly $1 million settlement in a lawsuit claiming they were targeted by a rule requiring English only at work, federal officials said Monday.

The settlement involves nearly 70 nurses and medical staff members who accused Delano Regional Medical Center in Kern County of banning them from speaking Tagalog and other Filipino languages while letting other workers speak in their native languages, including Spanish, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced.

The lawsuit, filed in 2010, accused the hospital of creating a hostile working environment for Filipinos by singling them out for reprimands and by encouraging other staff to report them.

The medical center defended its English-only policy as essential to patient care.

MASSACHUSETTS

Inmate seeking sex change ruled eligible for legal fees

BOSTON — A convicted murderer in Massachusetts who won the right to get a state-funded sex change is also eligible to have legal fees — expected to top $500,000 — paid as well, a federal judge ruled.

In a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf earlier this month ordered the state Department of Correction to provide sex-reassignment surgery to Michelle Kosilek. Judge Wolf found that prison officials had violated Kosilek's Eighth Amendment right to protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the surgery is the "only adequate treatment" for Kosilek's gender-identity disorder.

WISCONSIN

Confusion reigns in wake of collective-bargaining ruling

MADISON — Wisconsin school and government employee unions on Monday were considering whether to seek new contract talks after a state court threw out a controversial law that restricts public workers' collective bargaining rights.

At least one major union representing about 4,700 teachers in Madison said it will demand new contract negotiations, while others said they were weighing their options.

A Dane County judge ruled Friday that the law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, violates the school and local employees' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has said he will ask a court to put the ruling on hold while he prepares an appeal.

The law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker to address budget problems, has been the focal point of a broader clash between conservatives and unions over worker rights.

OHIO

Mom charged with theft from son deployed overseas

MASSILLON — A woman accused of stealing her son's income tax refunds while he served with the Army in Afghanistan was arrested in a stolen car, authorities said Monday.

Jennifer Fletcher is suspected of withdrawing about $16,000 from her son's account from March 2010 until April 2011 and forging his signature to cash checks in his name, apparently after agreeing to file her son's taxes while he was away, police said.

Mrs. Fletcher, 42, also is suspected of depositing more than $1,200 from his tax refunds into her account, said Lawrence Township Police Chief Mark Brink.

Mrs. Fletcher was arraigned Monday in Massillon Municipal Court and was being held on $150,000 bond, a court clerk's office said Monday. She also was ordered to have no contact with her son.

Court records show she is charged with two counts of felony theft and one charge each of identity fraud and forgery.

NORTH CAROLINA

UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor to resign amid scandals

CHAPEL HILL — The chancellor who has led the country's oldest public university for four years will step down next year in the wake of scandals involving academic fraud, improper travel spending by fundraisers and special treatment for athletes.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp will step down in June after the academic year and return to teaching in the chemistry department, where he had been a longtime professor and former chairman, the school said Monday.

Mr. Thorp met privately Friday with the Board of Governors overseeing the 17-campus state university system, and several members said afterward they thought Mr. Thorp was doing a great job.

Mr. Thorp's successes included attracting $767 million in research funds last year, putting the school among the Top 10 U.S. public universities for attracting federal research funding, board members said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports