Employees Reprimanded for Speaking Spanish on the Job

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Employees Reprimanded for Speaking Spanish on the Job

It has been reported that a total of nine Hispanic police officers were reprimanded for speaking Spanish on the job after filing unrelated discrimination complaints. These officers claim that the reprimands amount to retaliation against them. One of the officers, Jessenia Guzman alleges she uttered a single sentence in Spanish. According to Guzman, "It was just natural . . . She walked by. She was going to get coffee. She said something. I responded [in Spanish]. That was it."The exchange was so trivial that Guzman hardly even remembered it. Hours later, she was called into her supervisor's office and given the reprimand. It said she was "required to communicate department business in the language of English."

For the National Latino Officers Association, the reprimand represents clear discrimination against Latinos in the workplace. Linda Cronin, general counsel for the organization, expressed her additional fear that the English speaking policy is too vague in terms of when Spanish is permitted.

Guzman has filed a equal employment opportunity complaint against the supervisor who issues the reprimand.

Along the same lines, two employees at a Whole Foods Market store in Albuquerque, New Mexico allege they were suspended last month after complaining about being told they could not speak Spanish to each other while on the job - a claim the company says was a misunderstanding.

One of the employees, Bryan Baldizan, has reported that he and female coworker were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed 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."

In response to Baldizan's complaint, Whole Foods Market, Inc. alleges it launched an investigation and concluded that the employees misunderstood and were not told that they couldn't speak Spanish. A company spokesman was reported as stating that the two employees were suspended with pay for being "rude and disrespectful" in an office.

The ordeal comes after New Mexico, the most Hispanic state in the nation, saw two recent cases of Spanish being barred from high school athletic competitions.

Ralph Arellanes, state director of New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens, said the Whole Foods policy violates New Mexico's state constitution, which protects Spanish and American Indian languages. Latino groups will meet soon about a possible boycott of businesses that have similar policies, he said.

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