Whole Foods disputes NM workers' language claims - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Whole Foods disputes NM workers' language claims

Two Whole Foods grocery store employees say they were suspended from work for speaking Spanish.

It's the classic "he said, she said" right now because not too many details are being released, but we did talk to a rep with Whole Foods about the alleged discrimination.

Valeria Torres is a Mexico native and team leader at Whole Foods Market.

"I talk to team members in Spanish all the time. It's the truth," Torres said.

Two Whole Foods employees in New Mexico say they were suspended from work, with pay, for doing just that, speaking Spanish.

Torres said, "I talk to many guests in Spanish just because that's they're preferred language and I can recognize that and I can help them shop throughout the store."

A male and female employee claim their manager said Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

"The base is always going to be English. We are in the United States," Torres said.

Whole Foods says they're a company that celebrates diversity, but they couldn't divulge many details about why the two were suspended from the job.

Katie said, "I understand how people would feel uncomfortable with people speaking another language around them...like, are they talking about me? But, it seems a little harsh to have someone leave just because they're speaking another language."

Fechon Fetters said, "They're going outside the parameters of the law and discrimination is illegal. That's discrimination."

"Well, I see both sides, but I still don't get it, speaking another language, losing your job," said Susie Aguilar, who works in education. "Policy is key. We have to follow a lot of guidelines and policies. I know about that."

Torres said, "I do food safety in Spanish. We also do store meetings in Spanish that are translated into...sign language."

A different rep from Whole Foods says company policy states English speaking workers must speak English to customers and other employees while on the clock.

"We do not have an English-only policy," said Torres.

According to a statement from Whole Foods media relations, "the suspension was due to the employees' rude and disrespectful behavior both in an office and in front of customers inside a store."

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