In 2003, Whittier announced a policy prohibiting employees from speaking in their non-English native languages at the health center. In January, 2004, 13 Latina workers at Whittier filed a discrimination complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and ultimately with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union. The fifteen-month dispute was marked by firings of workers and rallies in support of the employees.
There were eerie parallels between the English-first dispute and the efforts of staff to form a union 14 years later. In both cases, Whittier claimed that the workers who were involved in the efforts were fired “for budgetary reasons” and because of “performance issues,” not because of their decision to raise concerns at Whittier.