A Hamilton McDonalds worker has been told by her manager not to speak Māori in the restaurant.
The 19-year-old Māori speaker says she is shocked and saddened at the directive as she was keen to celebrate Māori Language Week.
“I grew angry then hurt,” she says, "This is the first time I've been told by anyone that I can't speak Māori.”
The teenager customer service staffer was taught at the kōhanga reo Māori medium school and Māori medium High School of Mana Tamariki in Palmerston North.
“The Māori language is my world,” she says, “This is Māori Language Week, but for us when we were at school, speaking Māori is the norm. I speak Māori all the time.”
Eru-Taueki has been working at McDonalds for six months and was told last Thursday by a shift manager that the directive stems from complaints received by customers and staff.
She was also told speaking another language other than English could be considered rude to the customer and they may think they're being talked about.
“I don't agree because Māori is an official language of this country.”
“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.”
Eru-Taueki often serves inside and on the drive-through and says the response from customers to her incorporating Māori has been positive.
In a statement to Te Kāea, McDonald's New Zealand said,
“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.”
Eru-Taueki says this is a good outcome as it seems McDonald's may upsize their reo Māori.