A Milwaukee custard shop owner is defending his English-only ordering policy.
WITI-TV reports the policy at Leon’s Frozen Custard became public on Tuesday after a Spanish-speaking customer was told by a Spanish-speaking employee that she was only allowed to take his order in English.
READ MORE: NB language commissioner reviews complaints of English-only service
Shop owner Ron Schneider says that the policy has been in place for more than a decade. He tells WISN-TV that he doesn’t want to encourage non-English orders because it’s going to be “a problem down the road,” adding that “we can’t be the United Nations.” He says no customer has ever been turned away.
“I specifically tell (my employees) that I really don’t want you to speak anything other than English at the window,” said Schneider. “A good number of people who might come up and talk Spanish also speak English.”
Joey Sanchez, who was in line behind the Spanish-speaking customer who was to she had to speak English, said he doesn’t understand why the dessert shop wouldn’t serve Spanish-speaking customers if they have employees who speak Spanish.
“If they cannot speak Spanish, that’s completely another game,” said Sanchez. “But if they have the people who can clearly speak Spanish and communicate better with the customer, why not?”
Sanchez also tried to order in Spanish but received a similar response from a store employee.
WATCH: Dessert shop criticized over discriminatory English-only ordering policy
New Brunswick language commissioner reviews complaints of English-only service
Alberta’s English-only laws are constitutional: Supreme Court of Canada
Anglo activists decry Westmount’s French-only parking and traffic signs
Although some customers have begun boycotting the store, the controversial ordering policy hasn’t deterred everybody with a sweet-tooth.
“They’re living here, working here for Lord knows how long and they haven’t even bothered to learn the language?” Louise Bozek said.
READ MORE: Alberta’s English-only laws are constitutional: Supreme Court of Canada
“This is America. That’s the bottom line,” added Dave Katzner. “You want to come here and live? You learn the language.”
“We speak English. Can’t we just do business that way?” asked Schneider.
WITI reports the Wisconsin chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens says the policy violates federal labour law. The group is calling for a government investigation, while Schneider now reportedly says he will meet with the group.
LULAC of Wisconsin’s State Director Dr. Arturo Martinez released a statement:
“In the last 24 hours, LULAC of Wisconsin has received numerous requests to investigate the issue of workplace policy as it pertains to language at Leon’s Frozen Custard located at 3131 S. 27th Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
While many of us consider this 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.
In the meantime, we encourage management to review their current employment policies with counsel to bring them into compliance. We are confident that in doing so, it will lead to a stronger business and a stronger community.”
With files from The Associated Press.