Shop owners posting signs requesting that customers place orders in English, though certainly controversial, aren’t unheard of. But a well-known custard stand in Milwaukee has recently come under fire for taking its English-only policy to a different level of restrictiveness: At Leon’s Frozen Custard, owner Ron Schneider forbids employees from speaking in foreign languages even if they are fully able to converse with a customer.
The incident apparently began earlier this week when a customer, Joey Sanchez, overheard a Spanish-speaking employee talking to a Spanish-speaking customer. “She whispered to him in Spanish ‘I`m not allowed to speak Spanish to you,’” Sanchez told FOX6. Sanchez also tried placing his order in Spanish with the same employee and got the same response.
The media soon caught wind of Sanchez’s experience, and when they confronted Schneider, he admitted that the policy had been around for a decade. “What I`m trying to avoid is when people come up here, get waited on in a different language because there happens to be an employee who speaks that language,” he said.
This policy though, may be more than just controversial. The League of United Latin American Citizens claims it’s against the law. “While many of us consider [Leon’s] as a community institution, it was surprising when we learned of their language policy, which is in clear violation of federal labor law. Upon reviewing the statements made by management in a video interview detailing Leon’s policy, we are requesting an investigation of this policy by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The law is clear on this issue and offers few exceptions.”
According to the Department of Labor, “employee’s right to speak in languages other than English may only be curtailed in certain narrowly-defined situations,” which include communicating with customers and coworkers who only speak English, in emergency situations and to enable a supervisor who only speaks English to monitor job performance.
According to Fox6, Schneider is supposed to meet with the LULAC today. Interestingly, Leon’s has been in business since 1942. After being around that long, you’d think adapting to change would probably be one of its specialties.