Speaking With One Voice - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Speaking With One Voice

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When is it appropriate to speak a language other than English in the workplace? It may sound like a simple question but it is not only complex, it's an issue that is sparking increasing debate. The latest case involves NYPD officer Jessenia Guzman.

Guzman says she was reprimanded for speaking Spanish while on duty. Guzman contends she was going to get coffee when another officer said something to her and she responded in Spanish. Now Guzman's single sentence response in Spanish will be a permanent blemish on her police record because her supervisor issued her a "memo of reprimand." A little-used rule prohibits NYPD officers from speaking a foreign language on duty unless circumstances deem it necessary to do the job--such as during an investigation, when a witness can only speak and understand a language other than English.

Guzman has now filed two federal equal opportunity complaints against the supervisor. Meanwhile, an NYPD spokesperson defended the policy saying: "We're a 24/7 operation. We should be speaking one voice, which is English."

Recently Whole Foods revised the company's employee language policy after some workers were suspended for complaining about not being allowed to speak Spanish while on the job. Whole Foods had said the policy was in place, among other reasons, to keep workers who didn't speak the language from feeling uncomfortable. However, Latino groups nationwide were outraged by the suspensions.

As America becomes more and more diverse, you can count on this issue popping up in more places. There are no easy answers to the questions raised by this subject. And it could very well be the answers may end up coming from a courtroom rather than a company's boardroom. I'd like to hear your thoughts.

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