A McDonald's worker is furious and saddened after management told her she couldn't speak te reo Māori to customers.
Hamilton woman Janine Eru-Taueki was informed last Thursday by her manager of the stance, saying the store had received complaints from customers and other staff members and explained speaking te reo Māori could be considered rude.
However, the 19-year-old, who has worked for McDonald's for six months, says she's often asked by customers if they can order in te reo Māori.
"This is the first time I've been told by anyone that I can't speak Māori. This is Māori Language Week, but to us students of that school speaking Māori is normal. I speak Māori all the time," Eru-Taueki told Te Kāea.
"Some of the customers come up and ask if they can make their order in Māori. I was really sad the other night because I couldn't speak to them in Māori myself."
Following the incident, McDonald's released a statement saying they believe there has been a misunderstanding as they hadn't received any complaints about Janine but would look into the language policy.
"Across New Zealand McDonald's employs people from a diverse range of backgrounds. English is used as a common language amongst staff to ensure clear communication, and provide an inclusive environment. As required, staff can talk with customers in other languages.
"In this case it sounds like there has been a misunderstanding, as we didn't have any complaints from customers regarding Janine. However, it has raised the issue of our policy and staff speaking Māori. We're following up with Janine to understand her perspective and build into plans for future policy and Māori Language Week activities."
Following Eru-Taueki's situation, New Zealanders have taken to social media to support the 19-year-old with many encouraging her to speak te reo Māori despite her manager's stance.
"Being an official language of NZ, you have every right to use Te Reo," one person wrote.
Another said: "I'm sure a 'kia ora' is ok if the customer replies with 'hello' that's your cue to kōrero in English. Otherwise, te Reo Māori is an official language of NZ."
"Good on you Janine ... 2018 and we are being told not to speak Te Reo?? McDonald's you have an opportunity to change the culture of your management ... I believe Janine is your girl to enlighten and educate them in their ignorance towards diversity!"
However, some believe McDonald's are well within their rights to enforce English as the language of choice while at work.
"It would be ok if everyone could understand it but they have a business to run so it does make sense," one person wrote.
Another said: "I'm all for te reo Māori but when I worked in fast food the rule was only English was allowed to be spoken on the floor. It's a health and safety issue."