Whole Foods allegedly suspended two workers at one of its New Mexico locations for speaking Spanish to each other while on the job.
Bryan Baldizan said he and a female employee were suspended for a day after their manager told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Baldizan said. “All we did was say we didn’t believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work.”
Ben Friedland, who is the Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region executive marketing coordinator, said the company believes in “having a uniform form of communication” to promote a safe working environment, NBC Latino reported.
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“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. “Team members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”
Advocacy group, ProgressNow New Mexico, said it is organizing a boycott of Whole Foods. An online petition circulated by the group on Thursday collected more than 500 signatures of people who say they will not shop at Whole Foods until it changes its language policy.
"We want Whole Foods to rescind its English-only policy," said Pat Davis, executive director of ProgressNow New Mexico. "We don't think it's appropriate in a state as diverse as New Mexico."
According to Whole Foods spokesperson Libba Letton, the employees were suspended for "rude and disrespectful behavior," and the disciplinary measure had nothing to do with what language they were speaking.
"Due to their rude and disrespectful behavior both in an office and in the store in front of customers, they were suspended with pay," Letton said of the employees. "Their suspension was due to their behavior alone."