Does your company have in place what amounts to an "English-only" policy for employees? Yes? No?
How do we get Whole Foods to tell the whole truth?
At the very least, what we have at the trendy organic supermarket chain is a failure to communicate -- in any language.
Bryan Baldizan and Lupe Gonzales -- two employees of a Whole Foods Market in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- say that they were suspended for speaking Spanish on the job and complaining to a manager who told them, in a staff meeting, that a company policy required them to speak English.
Who would have thought? Hispanics make up a staggering 46.7% of New Mexico's population, and many of those folks have roots that run deep in the Land of Enchantment.
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.
But not everyone sees eye to eye.
Remember that flap in October 2009 when Larry Whitten -- an innkeeper in Taos, New Mexico -- got in hot "agua" after firing some of his employees for speaking Spanish and refusing to Anglicize their names. You know, "Juan" to "John," "Maria" to "Mary" etc.
Whitten, a Texas transplant, claimed he was only thinking about his customer. But a lot of New Mexicans thought he wasn't thinking at all.
Now, Baldizan and Gonzales got in trouble. Granted, their suspension at Whole Foods only lasted a day, and it was with pay.
So the individual employees didn't suffer much harm. But there are those who believe that the cultural traditions of the state of New Mexico took a slap in the face. This isn't the end of this. Not even close.
How did the company respond? Take your pick. It's multiple choice.
At first, Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton told the Associated Press that the employees misunderstood the reason they were disciplined and that they were actually suspended for being "rude and disrespectful." In the context of employees talking to their boss, it's pretty clear that what she really meant to say was that they were "insubordinate."
Letton also told AP that the employees were never told they couldn't speak Spanish, and that there is no policy in place at the company that prohibits people from speaking a foreign language.
But the issue is not whether the company prohibits the speaking of a foreign language, but whether it requires the speaking of English. Maybe it's just semantics, or maybe it's more than semantics.
Besides, it doesn't look like Letton -- who is based in Austin -- was up to speed on what was happening on the ground in Albuquerque.
Ben Friedland, executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods Market Rocky Mountain Region, issued a statement acknowledging that the company believes that "having a uniform form of communication is essential to a safe and efficient working environment."
Therefore, the statement said, "our policy states that all English speaking Team Members must speak English to customers and other Team Members while on the clock."
"Must speak," eh? Sounds like an English-only policy to me.
It went on: "Team Members are free to speak any language they would like during their breaks, meal periods and before and after work."