Whole Foods Says Employees Were Not Suspended For Speaking Spanish At Work

Whole Foods is quickly working to smooth over a recent controversy over its policy on speaking languages other than English on the job. Two employees at New Mexico store claimed their pay was docked for speaking to each other in Spanish while on breaks, but Whole Foods says they were reprimanded for rude behavior, not for Spanish.Various media outlets ran the story of two employees who claimed they were suspended after complaining that they couldn’t speak Spanish to each other while on the job, reports Newsmax. One of the employees said they wrote a letter after a meeting with a manager, who they say forbade them from speaking Spanish during work hours.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he 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.”

Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region executive marketing coordinator said the company believes in “having a uniform form of communication” for a safe working environment.

“Therefore, our policy states that all English-speaking team members must speak English to customers and other team members while on the clock,” he said in a statement published by the Associated Press. “Team members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”

That statement seemed to indicate that the employees were, indeed, suspended over language.  But another statement released by Whole Foods on Thursday reiterated that there was no “no foreign languages spoken” policy and called the AP’s original story “misleading,” and said the employees were disciplined for other reasons.

“At Whole Foods Market, we do not have ‘no foreign languages spoken’ policies in any of our stores,” said the statement, on the Whole Foods Market website. “Our policy is that the default language is English, for consistent communication, inclusion, and especially for safety and emergency situations. We want our team members to use their judgment about when it’s appropriate to speak other languages. We are proud of our multilingual team members and try to work with customers in other languages whenever needed.”

The company also added that the employees were suspended for “rude and disrespectful behavior.”

“Their suspension was due to their behavior alone, not for speaking Spanish,” the statement said.

The company now says it’s going to review its language policy at its all-leadership conference next week.

Whole Foods Market® responds to AP story about Spanish speaking team members [Whole Foods]
Whole Foods Market Slams ‘English Only’ Story by Associated Press [Newsmax.com]