Speaking Spanish in a Globalized America

On May 3, the U.S. EEOC filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple employees at an Albertson’s grocery store. Employees alleged that the store prohibited them from speaking Spanish anywhere on the store’s premises where there were English speakers present.

According to an article in the Washington Post, Hispanic workers at the grocery store were reminded frequently that speaking Spanish was prohibited. The inclination to do so, the article describes, was inspired by a training video shown to the manager of the San Diego based Albertson’s. The video outlined the policy which was later allegedly implemented. The employees’ complaints included allegations of harassment, and multiple employees, cited in the court filing, attempted to transfer to other Albertson’s locations.

Obviously, the discriminatory behavior alleged in the lawsuit is shocking to see in the modern day. That aside, however, the motive behind such alleged actions is curious. This rejection of oral communication in Spanish comes at a time when foreign language abilities are increasingly valued in white-collar contexts.

In an increasingly globalized society, it’s more important—and more lucrative—than ever for American workers to be conversational or, preferably, fluent in a language other than English. One article on Monster.com outlines some of the perks which come with speaking Spanish in the workplace, including, but not limited to, higher pay and opportunities to advance up the corporate ladder. Both globally and domestically, explains the article, the need for Spanish speakers is significant.

So why does this high valuation of Spanish language skills not translate to places like Albertson’s? The answer to this question is impossibly complex, but ultimately insigificant in the face of Spanish’s status as one of the fastest-growing languages in the United States. The Hispanic population in the United States grows larger each day, and it’s high time that Spanish speakers in all lines of work are treated as the valuable company employees they indubitably are.