ACLU Files Discrimination Charges Against Whole Foods Market

“Revised” Language Policy Remains Functionally the Same, Discrimination Continues Against Spanish-Speaking Employees

  ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed charges against Whole Foods Market with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau for allegedly discriminating against Spanish speaking employees at the Northeast Albuquerque store location. Bryan Baldizan and Lupe Gonzalez, both Spanish speaking employees of Whole Foods, allege that the store’s “English-only” policy is actually in effect a “No Spanish” policy as the policy is only applied to those employees who speak Spanish in the workplace.

“It is illegal for employers to single out Spanish speaking employees for unfair treatment,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Discriminating against an employee for speaking Spanish, a language that has been widely spoken here for nearly five-hundred years, is an affront to our state’s history, culture and values.”

“I grew up in Northern New Mexico speaking Spanish as my first language with my grandfather, who taught me to always be proud of our language and our heritage,” said Gonzalez. “When my employer tells me I can’t ever use Spanish, they are taking away an important part of who I am as a person. I’ve worked for Whole Foods for 13 years, and have always had occasional workplace conversations in Spanish without any problems. I don’t understand why I’m suddenly being treated differently.”

On May 23, 2013, a prepared foods department supervisor at the Whole Foods Market in Northeast Albuquerque held a team meeting to announce Whole Foods’ “English-Only” policy. Though the policy as written does not single out any particular non-English language, the supervisor only admonished the employees who spoke Spanish to one another at work, not the many other department employees who spoke other languages, including two Tibetan employees and six employees on the sushi team.

 

The charges filed today allege that Whole Foods persists in singling out Spanish to the exclusion of other non-English languages spoken in the workplace. Bryan Baldizan’s affidavit to the commission states:

Because of all of the media attention surrounding this issue, on Friday, June 14, 2013, Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb posted a revised language policy for all Whole Foods stores on his blog. However, the practical effect of the “revised” policy remains the same.  Spanish is the only language that continues to be scrutinized and targeted. We continue to be told that we can only speak Spanish during breaks. However, as mentioned above, our Tibetan colleagues and members of the Sushi team continue to speak their respective language while on the job and without repercussion…

Read Bryan Baldizan’s affidavit to the Human Rights Bureau.

Read Lupe Gonzalez’s affidavit to the Human Rights Bureau.

 

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