AP (© AP)
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 18:00:00 GMT | By RUSSELL CONTRERAS,Associated Press, Associated Press

Whole Foods revises language policy

Store rethinks its English-only policy for employees following threats of national boycotts by Latino groups.


Copyright 2013 Associated Press (© Copyright 2013 Associated Press)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Facing threats of national boycotts from Latino groups and a slew of online petitions, Whole Foods announced Friday that the organic grocery chain has revised its employee language policy following the suspension of two Spanish-speaking Albuquerque employees.

Whole Foods Market Inc. Co-CEO Walter Robb said in a blog post Friday that the recent "unfortunate incident" in Albuquerque prompted the Austin, Texas-based company to revise a policy that "does not reflect and is not in alignment with the spirit of this company."

"First, we sincerely apologize that a section of our handbook regarding Team Member interactions in the workplace was not clearly written, and for any misunderstandings or offense it has created," Robb wrote. "Its intention was to foster inclusion, not exclusion."

Last week, two Albuquerque workers said they were suspended for a day with pay after complaining about the policy. A Whole Foods spokesman said that previous policy required that all "English-speaking workers must speak English to customers and other employees while on the clock, unless the customer speaks another language."

The suspensions and the news of policy sparked outrage and threats of boycotts from groups like the New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizen.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican and the nation's only Latina governor, pressed the company to review its employee language policy for states like New Mexico, where Spanish is historically linked.

Robb said the employees "received paid, one-day suspensions for their workplace behavior, not for speaking Spanish."

Under the new policy released Friday, employees who speak English and need to communicate with an English-speaking customer are asked to "please speak with them in English, unless requested otherwise by the customer."

The policy also asks employees to "make sure you are sensitive to others who may want to join your conversation or ask you a question. If needed, switch to a common language to be inclusive and respectful" when speaking other languages on the job.

Employees who don't understand English are asked to tell a manager who will help with translation, the policy said.

Walter said the company has sent the original and revised policy to the New Mexico LULAC and the American Civil Liberties Union for their feedback. He said Whole Foods will "continue to have conversations with these organizations."

Ralph Arellanes, state director of New Mexico LULAC, said the new policy was a "step in the right direction" and was looking forward to speaking further with company officials during a scheduled meeting next month.

"Usually when something like this is uncovered there are other issues beneath the surface that need to be addressed, like the demographic of employees and management structures," Arellanes said. "New Mexico isn't a foreign country but (Hispanics) have a history here that goes back 400 years."

___

Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras


 

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

6Comments
Jun 17, 2013 7:31PM
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You're soooooooo jealous b/c u can only speak one language that's it - why worry if someone wants to speak in another language, let them. I don't go and berate the girl doing my nails b/c she's speaking Vietnamese, I join her in laughing ! she's probably laughing about all these pendejo americans and getting all their money just for doing nails  - I say more power to her, so why not laugh. Laugh and the world laughs back.

Jun 18, 2013 12:14PM
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It's always good to speak, read and write another language other than American English.  By the way, the  language of the Americans includes Spanish for there is North and South Americas....people need to get educated in this country because ignorance and hatred abound!  I thank God my grandfathers were not full of hatred toward my grandmothers ethnicity.  And yes, Puerto Ricans are the only Latino Group who are American Citizens....what a beautiful country this can be.....
Jun 18, 2013 10:02AM
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KEEP LAUGHING.  THE TIME IS COMMING.
Jun 17, 2013 4:00PM
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I THINK WHOLE FOODS WAS ON THE RIGHT TRACT.  IF YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH PRIDE IN THE COUNTRY YOU CHOSE TO LIVE AND WORK TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF THAT COUNTRY THEN I SAY GET OUT!!!!  I AM AN IMMIGRANT AND I KNOW YOU CAN LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF THE AMERICAN'S VERY EASILY.  I THINK ALL THE SPANISH SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM ALL GOVERNMENT FORMS AND EVERYTHING ELSE IN OUR COUNTRY.  YOU DON'T SEE THE ASIAN OR ANY OTHER LANGUAGE ON OUR GOVERNMENT FORMS.  ONLY SPANISH.  GET THE NONE ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLE OUT OF AMERICA AND THEY CAN COME BACK ONCE THEY LEARN ENGLISH WHICH BY THE WAY IS TAUGHT IN EVERY COUNTRY'S SCHOOL SYSTEM. I COULD RANT ON AND ON BUT I SAY GET THE NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING PEOPLE OUT OF OUR COUNTRY AND MAYBE WE WOULDN'T HAVE SO MANY HOMELESS AND HUNGRY CHILDREN IN OUR COUNTRY.  THIS IS NO LONGER THE LAND OF THE FREE OR HOME OF THE BRAVE.  THE GOVERNMENT HAS BOWED DOWN TO THE HISPANIC COMMUNITIES ENOUGH---STOP IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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