Austin-based Whole Foods Market says it will revisit its policy on speaking foreign languages after two Albuquerque employees claimed they were suspended for speaking Spanish to each other while on the job.
Whole Foods said, in a bilingual statement on the company's website, that the two were not suspended for speaking Spanish. Instead, the company claims they were actually disciplined for "rude behavior." The company says the two erroneously believed that they had been told not to speak Spanish by a manager, and became upset.
"All we did was say we didn't believe the policy was fair," said Bryan Baldizan, one of the two food prep workers who were disciplined. "We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work."
The company's first response came Thursday, when a regional marketing executive told the AP that "our policy states that all English speaking team members must speak English to customers and other team members while on the clock. Team members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods, and before and after work."
Later in the day, Whole Foods corporate office walked that statement back on their website, saying that "we do not have 'no foreign languages spoken' policies in any of our stores."
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez said she supports a close review of the company's policies regarding languages. The Republican governor said Friday that Spanish is "part of the fabric of what make New Mexico great."
Whole Foods will review its language policy at an upper management retreat next week. It may ask the advice of civil rights groups as part of its review process.