A social media post by a former employee of a local sporting goods store goes viral, after the employee said he left the job after feeling discriminated against for speaking Spanish to customers.
The Facebook post by Jesus Rivera had almost a thousand shares in less than 24 hours, and while the former employee felt the support from his community, the owner of Yellow Mart in Indio said he is feeling the heat.
Yellow Mart is one of the last standing stores in Old Town Indio, but Rivera said he left the job just after a month.
Rivera said, “That time when I just asked with one word where the trash was at in Spanish and I got reprehended, the supervisor yelled at me, “hey no Spanish!”
But when a Spanish speaking customer came in, the store supervisor needed Rivera’s help.
“I went to ask a supervisor another question when I finished, that’s when she told me, I don’t know why she doesn’t speak English,” Rivera said. “I let her know that’s not the issue, the issue is that she wants to buy a hat not her speaking English, she put a disgusted face on and I repeated we’re here to help the customers.”
For Rivera that was the last straw. He quit the job and took to social media to share what happened. Quickly, the community got involved and the owner of Yellow Mart, Mark Jernigan, said he started to receive insulting phone calls and messages online.
For his part, Jernigan said he does allow his employees to speak Spanish to his customers, he said, “It’s a must to have people who do speak Spanish and for him to say we don’t allow to speak Spanish with Spanish speaking customers would be incorrect.”
But since he is not fluent in Spanish, Jernigan does prefer for his employees to speak English around him or other English speaking customers.
Jernigan said, “Sometimes it is a courtesy we prefer that if you’re speaking Spanish between each other and somebody who doesn’t speak Spanish walks up we do prefer you to speak English that way everyone is in the loop.”
A local lawyer tells KMIR News courts in California have not set a clear precedent on allowing only a certain language for employees while on the clock, but cases have settled in favor of workers whose employers retaliated for speaking another language other than English during their lunch time.
As for Rivera, he said he is looking for a new job, one that allows him to speak freely.