To Hablar or no Hablar? That is the question that many are asking themselves after news of a couple of Whole Foods grocery store employees being suspended, allegedly, on account of speaking Spanish while on the clock.
The two employees, who work at an Albuquerque store location, said that they were suspended in May after complaining about being told they couldn’t speak Spanish to each other in the work place, the Associated Press reports.
A company statement on the Whole Foods website counters those claims by explaining that these employees believed they were being told in a team meeting that they could not speak Spanish at work, thus misinterpreting policy, and becoming “rude” and “disrespectful.” In the end, their behavior, not the alleged no-speaking-Spanish policy, is what caused them to be suspended, with pay. Seventeen other staffers who were in the same meeting indicated during the fully fledged investigation launched by Whole Foods, that there was never a mention of such a policy during the meeting.
While all of this might just blow over as a case of employees getting muy apasionados without getting their facts straight (osea, all up in the mitote), it begs the question of how people really feel when we speak Spanish in the workplace.
The fact is that while Equal Employment Opportunity Laws exist to protect us from language discrimination, in corporate America, speaking Spanish at the workplace is a taboo. Our colleagues feel that they’re being talked about, our bosses assume we’re gossiping with our relatives on the phone if speaking Spanish, and some of us are anti-Spanish at the workplace because we’re afraid of being perceived as such. But, speaking Spanish at work has its advantages, such as higher pay and job security. But most importantly, our language helps us build bonds with fellow Spanish speakers, helps us grow our clientele, and strengthens public relations.
Changing corporate culture starts from within, so what will you do? Hablas o no?
By Being Latino Contributor, Ariana Montelongo de Valdivia. Ariana is a graduate of the University of Houston and has worked in Public Relations with the American Heart Association, LifeGift Organ Donation Center, Edelman Public Relations and currently hosts two TV shows on HMS TV (Houston MediaSource).Ariana can be followed on Twitter @AriMontelongo .