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Milwaukee Custard Shop Defends 'English-Only' Policy

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'We can't be the United Nations'

Leon's Frozen Custard/Facebook

A frozen custard shop in Milwaukee has is making headlines over its controversial "English-only" ordering policy, reports Fox 6. Leon's Frozen Custard owner Ron Schneider says his employees are not allowed converse with customers in any language other than English.

"Any foreign language is going to be a problem," Schneider told the TV station. "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."

Schneider said the policy has been in place for a decade, but it hasn't gotten any attention until now. One Wednesday, a customer named Joey Sanchez overheard a Leon's employee tell another customer, "I'm not allowed to speak Spanish to you." Now Sanchez is trying to find out why the policy is in place. "If they have the people who can speak Spanish and communicate with the customer better, why not?" he asked Fox 6.

The latest available data estimates Hispanic or Latino residents make up 14.2 percent of Milwaukee's population. Some locals reportedly feel the policy is a bad idea considering the makeup of the surrounding community. But others are on Schneider's side. "We do live in America, you know?" customer Ryan Schmidt told Fox 6.

In a statement, League of United Latin American Citizens Wisconsin state director Arturo Martinez said the policy violates federal labor law.

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.

In business since 1942, Leon's is a staple in Milwaukee. The controversy comes at a time when anti-Latino and anti-Hispanic sentiment is running high among some Americans. While some of that ill will seems to stem from language used by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, it's certainly nothing new.