A Whole Foods Market store in Albuquerque has suspended two employees for violating the company’s “English-only” policy by speaking Spanish to each other during work hours.
According to one of the employees, Bryan Baldizan, the one-day suspension was handed to him and a female employee after they complained to a manager about the policy.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Baldizan told the Associated Press. “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.”
Since the incident, Whole Foods Market has gone on to tell that it has a policy requiring all “Team Members” to “speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock.”
The outlet went on to add that the policy is there to ensure “a safe working environment” by promoting “a uniform form of communication.”
“Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”
A spokeswoman for the company, Libba Letton, initially told that the policy was put in place “so employees who don’t speak Spanish don’t feel uncomfortable.”
Nevertheless gawker go on to tell that a backlash has since ensued, with spokesperson Letton releasing a follow-up statement claiming the employees were not suspended for speaking Spanish or complaining about the policy, but rather for “rude and disrespectful behavior both in an office and in the store in front of customers.”
A petition posted on MoveOn.org has already received over 1,000 signatures.