Whole Foods Market, Inc. (WFM) Softens “English Only” Stance

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Following a brief uproar less than two weeks ago regarding its language policy, organic grocery specialist Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) Friday officially softened the previous "English-only" stance outlined in its employee handbook.

Out with the old... The initial incident arose when two Albuquerque workers claimed they were suspended after complaining about the policy. Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) management, for their part, stated that the paid, one-day suspensions didn't actually stem from a violation of the policy, but instead were the result of "rude" workplace behavior exhibited by the employees.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM)

Even so, co-CEO Walter Robb noted in a company blog posting that the "unfortunate incident" has provided Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) the opportunity to revise the language of the policy "which, while in place for years, does not reflect and is not in alignment with the spirit of this company."

Also in the post, Robb wrote, "On behalf of the Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) Leadership Network ... we sincerely apologize that a section of our handbook regarding team member interactions in the workplace was not clearly written, and for any misunderstandings or offense it has created. Its intention was to foster inclusion, not exclusion."

Sure enough, part of the old policy dictated that English-speaking workers must speak English to customers and other employees while on the clock, unless "all present prefer to speak a language other than English."

...and in with the new By contrast, the respective sections of the new policy state:

If you speak English and you need to communicate with an English-speaking customer, please speak with them in English, unless requested otherwise by the customer. When speaking with customers or fellow Team Members, please make sure you are sensitive to others who may want to join in your conversation or ask you a question. If needed, switch to a common language to be inclusive and respectful.

What's more, similar to the old policy, employees who don't understand English are asked to inform a "Team Leader so that communications may be translated" for them.

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