Two employees of a Whole Foods in Albuquerque, New Mexico claim they were suspended after complaining about a store policy that bans employees from speaking Spanish.
Store employee Bryan Baldizan told The Associated Press he and a female colleague were suspended for a day last month after they wrote a letter in response to a meeting with a manager who told them they could not speak Spanish during work hours.
"I couldn't believe it," said Baldizan. "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 company's policy is to have a "uniform form of communication" in the store.
"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," he added.
Ralph Arellanes, state director of New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, told the Associated Press that the Whole Foods Market policy violates New Mexico’s state constitution, which was written to protect Spanish and indigenous languages.
The news comes after several cases where Spanish language was banned, or penalized, in New Mexico high school sports.
Last month, New Mexico Military Institute’s Jose Gonzales was docked a point for speaking Spanish after several warnings to speak only English during a state championship singles match.
A high school baseball umpire resigned last month after trying to ban the players from speaking Spanish during a game.
Arellanes said Latino groups will meet to consider a boycott on any store with similar policies.