NPR Story
2:46 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Another Spanish-Speaking Dust Up in New Mexico

Earlier this spring it was the high school baseball umpire who threatened to eject players who spoke Spanish. There was a similar incident at the state high school tennis championships.

Now New Mexico is back in the news for another Spanish-language dust up.

Russell Contreras, the Associated Press reporter in Albuquerque, reports the Whole Foods Market store in the state's largest city is coming under fire for suspending two employees who said they complained about not being allowed to speak Spanish on the job.

Whole Foods Market is reviewing its employee language policy after two of its Spanish-speaking workers in New Mexico said they were suspended after complaining about it, a company spokeswoman said Friday.

Ben Friedland, the company's Rocky Mountain region executive marketing coordinator, said the policy states that all English-speaking workers must speak English to customers and other employees while on the clock, unless the customer speaks another language.

The New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens has threatened a boycott unless the Whole Foods policy is changed nationwide. The state director of LULAC said the Whole Foods policy violates New Mexico's state constitution, which protects Spanish and American Indian languages

The Texas-based grocer has responded to the social media firestorm in kind, referring Twitter users to a press release which states:

The facts are: two team members in New Mexico became upset when they believed they were told in a team meeting they could not speak Spanish at work. That was not what was communicated. They were suspended with pay due to rude and disrespectful behavior. Their suspension was due to their behavior alone, not for speaking Spanish.

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