English no longer the official language of New York's gas stations

Dennis Baron debaron at illinois.edu
Sat Jul 12 04:48:18 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

English no longer the official language of New York's gas stations

The West Ridge Road Hess service station in Rochester, New York, began  
firing workers last year because they spoke Spanish to one another,  
and to Spanish-speaking customers, in violation of the company’s  
English-only policy.  Station manager José Hernandez had been  
scheduling Spanish-speaking workers on each shift so they could better  
serve the Spanish-speaking customers who came into the station’s  
convenience store.  But he was told – in English – by higher-ups in  
the company that customers were welcome to buy in English, but Spanish  
was out, as were Hernandez and six of his co-workers.

Now according to WHAM, channel 13 in Rochester, the New York State  
Attorney General’s office has reached a settlement: Hess will pay its  
former employees $94,000 and the company will adopt a non- 
discrimination language policy.  The Attorney General’s office hopes  
that this will send a message to businesses around the country:  
refrain from language discrimination – it’s the law.


“Why should I have to press ‘1’ for English or listen to people  
insulting me in a language I can’t understand?” asks the English-only  
crowd, who are only too eager to assume that anyone not speaking  
English must be bent on mockery.


Back in Rochester, though, the Hess Corporation's concession has  
raised the hackles of the locals, who responded on 13WHAM’s web site  
with a brilliant display of rhetorical and grammatical skill in the  
language they want to see as the official language of the United  
States, the State of New York, Monroe County, the city of Rochester,  
the Ridge Road gas station, and the Beijing Olympics:

1.    I am offended when I can tell that someone is talking in a  
foreign language (any language) just to be judgmental of a person so  
they don't know they are being talked about! And these are people that  
command respect without earning it. You want my respect, then respect  
me as a customer and stop jabbering when I am standing in line for any  
reason. It is just DISRESPECTIFUL no matter what language you are using.

2.    Maybe all of us English speaking customers should get together  
and organize a boycott. It is apparent from this settlement that Hess  
does not respect us or our money. They could have chose to fight this  
(and probably would have won based on buisness reasons) but they chose  
to save a few dollars and in the process said screw our English  
speaking customers (who make up the majority of our consumers) and  
lets cater to the spanish speaking minority. You can't blame the court  
system for this one. This is corporate America selling us out so lets  
sell them out.

3.    I think what most people get annoyed with and upset about is  
that, when for example i go to the store, i am next in line - i don't  
speak their language-just English, but while they are helping me and  
ringing the register, the clerk continues to speak his/her own  
language tih his/her co-workers behind the counter.

4.    My dear spanish speaking friends - English is the business  
language of the world! All computers (no matter what language they  
display on the screen) are programmed in English. All airline pilots  
and air traffic controllers around the world speak English. Spanish is  
the language of third world countries whose people are oppressed,  
uneducated and suffer from a low standard of living. Name one  
thriving, prosperous Spanish speaking countrie –

... but wait, there's more, and as always, you can read about it on  
the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


read the Web of Language:

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