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Whole Foods Market Slams 'English Only' Story by Associated Press

Image: Whole Foods Market Slams 'English Only' Story by Associated Press A Whole Foods Market in Albuquerque, N.M. where two employees say they were suspended last month after complaining about being told they couldn't speak Spanish to each other while on the job.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Friday, 07 Jun 2013 11:22 AM

Whole Foods Market is disputing an Associated Press story that two employees in Albuquerque, N.M., were suspended for a month after complaining about being told they could not speak Spanish to each other while on the job.

The statement from Whole Foods Market seemed to contradict a statement from a regional Whole Foods executive made to the AP and included in the story.

Bryan Baldizan told the AP this week he and a female employee were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

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“I couldn’t believe it,” said Baldizan, who works in the store’s food preparation department. “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.”

Ben Friedland, Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region executive marketing coordinator, said the Austin, Texas-based 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,” Friedland said in a statement. “Team members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work.”

But a statement released by Whole Foods on Thursday noted there was no such policy and said the AP story was "misleading."

"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 statement went on to say that the Baldizan and his co-worker were suspended because of "rude and disrespectful behavior."

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

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Ralph Arellanes, state director of New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, said such a "No Spanish" policy would violate New Mexico’s state constitution, which protects Spanish and American Indian languages, and threatened a boycott.

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