Whole Foods established a policy of English only for its employees while they are on the clock. The exception would be if a customer spoke a different language. Employees can speak any other language during their breaks or if everyone present is agreeable.
Two employees in New Mexico objected to the policy.
They were suspended with pay for one day for rude behavior in an office. (Not sure what that means unless they had a belligerent attitude while complaining.) They claim they were punished for speaking Spanish.
Hispanic groups threatened to boycott Whole Foods. Whole Foods restated their policy to clarify that it applied during working hours which did not include break time or lunch time or before and after work. Whole Foods implemented the policy for safety and for being considerate to other workers who did not understand another language. Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region Executive Marketing Coordinator, said..
“Therefore, our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock,” Friedland said in a statement. “Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”
Friedland said the policy doesn’t prevent employees from speaking Spanish to customers who don’t speak English, nor does it prevent them from speaking Spanish if all “parties present agree that a different language is their preferred form of communication.”
Letton told the AP that in addition to safety reasons, the policy is in place so employees who don’t speak Spanish don’t feel uncomfortable.
The ACLU jumped in claiming the Whole Foods English only policy is really a ‘no Spanish’ policy. The language incident in the New Mexico store was particularly relevant to Spanish because Spanish has been spoken in that region for hundreds of years.
There are good reasons to have one language spoken in the workplace. It is important in safety sensitive situations for clear communications to be in place. Whole Foods didn’t say this explicitly but it is possible that workers speaking a different language could very well be making fun of other workers or customers who don’t understand what is being said. Sometimes people who know other languages think they are being clever by using it to speak unkindly of another person in their presence. It’s as clever—and as rude—as whispering. The laughter and conspiratorial looks give it away but the tormenters can always claim they weren’t making fun of someone. This could create a very uncomfortable work environment and be detrimental to a business.
These English only workplace rules have been under fire for years as being discriminatory against immigrants. I bring this up now because Senator Rubio and others are glorifying the point that learning to speak English is a prerequisite for the path to citizenship in the immigration legislation. We know this is an artifice to create the impression the politicians are making it tough for illegals to achieve citizenship.
The politicians care about nothing but cheap labor and stuffing the ballot boxes. They will promise anything and forget about it the minute the law is passed. It is nevertheless prudent to point out to Rubio and other amnesty supporters that even if illegal immigrants were held to the requirement to learn English, there is no guarantee they will agree to speak it. In fact, it will become more difficult to protect English as the language of the country once millions of Spanish-speaking citizens are created in a brief time period. The sense of entitlement to speak Spanish instead of English will be strengthened. It will also become close to impossible for businesses to establish workplace language rules.
If you don’t like your co-workers ridiculing you to your face in another language, I guess it’s up to you to learn the other language or put up with it.
Learning English is a good idea even if you are already a citizen.