06/12/2013 11:23 am ET

Whole Foods Slammed For ‘English-Only' Policy As Petition Gathers Signatures


Upscale grocery store Whole Foods continues to face fallout over allegations that it punished two Hispanic employees in New Mexico for objecting to a policy restricting the use of Spanish at work.

CNN columnist Ruben Navarrete slammed the store in a column Wednesday, faulting the company for lack of clarity about its policy requiring that employees speak English in the workplace.

“At the very least, what we have at the trendy organic supermarket chain is a failure to communicate -- in any language,” Navarrette wrote. “New Mexicans do not play games when it comes to preserving language and culture. They take their right to speak Spanish seriously. New Mexico's state constitution does not declare an official language, and it protects Spanish and American Indian languages. So you can't have English-only policies there.”

The columnist went on to poke fun at the company's statement that "Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work."

"Wow," Navarrette wrote. "Whole Foods gives you permission to speak Spanish with family members at home before leaving for work. That's big of them."

Navarrette isn’t the only one irritated with the grocery store chain. More than 5,600 people have signed on to a petition at asking the company to rescind it’s current language policy.

Whole Foods denied that the company restricts the use of Spanish in a press release last week, but maintained that employees should speak English primarily while on the job.

“At Whole Foods Market, we do not have ‘no foreign languages spoken’ policies in any of our stores," the press statement says. "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."

Whole Foods went on to say it was investigating the incident.

The Associated Press reported last week that Whole Foods had suspended two employees in Albuquerque for opposing instructions not to speak Spanish to each other while working.



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