Whole Foods Employees File Class-Action Lawsuit Over Right To Wear Black Lives Matter Apparel
The 14 employees who filed a class-action lawsuit are asking the court to ban the store's policy.
July 22, 2020 at 8:07 pm
Fourteen Whole Foods employees have filed a lawsuit over their right to wear Black Lives Matters apparel at work.
According to BBC News, workers for the grocery chain have filed a lawsuit against the company for imposing a dress code policy they believe is discriminatory.
More than 40 employees at various Whole Foods locations have been reprimanded for wearing Black Lives Matter masks, the lawsuit states. The plaintiffs also said the company allows workers to wear pins supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
"Whole Foods' selective enforcement of its dress code in disciplining employees who wear apparel expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement constitutes unlawful discrimination," the lawsuit states.
The 14 employees who filed the class-action lawsuit are asking the court to ban the store's policy and to prevent the company from retaliating against the employees. The complaint also demands back pay for employees who were sent home after wearing the masks.
“We are asking that the court order Whole Foods to allow the employees to wear the Black Lives Matter masks and other apparel at work,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer representing the workers, said.
Savannah Kinzer told The New York Times she was fired from the store for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.
Whole Foods refuted Kinzer's allegations in a statement, saying "no team members have been terminated for wearing Black Lives Matter face masks or apparel.”
The company said Kinzer was fired for repeatedly violating time and attendance policies "by not working her assigned shifts, reporting late for work multiple times in the past nine days and choosing to leave during her scheduled shifts."
According to the complaint, Black employees at Whole Foods have been wearing Black Lives Matter masks since last month as protests erupted around the country following the killing of George Floyd. The employees who filed the lawsuit are based in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Berkeley, California; Bedford, New Hampshire; and Seattle, Washington.
Six employees at two Whole Foods locations in Cambridge were allegedly sent home without pay after wearing the masks. One Seattle employee was sent home twice, the complaint states. Another staff member in Berkeley said she quit working at the store after being told to go home for wearing a Black Lives Matter pin.
Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, is being accused of hypocrisy after recently expressing public support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
"So many companies today are doing everything they can to profess how progressive they are. But when it actually comes to letting their employees express these same sentiments, they get muzzled," Liss-Riordan said.
Similar issues have come up for other companies such as Costco and Starbucks. One Costco employee recently wrote a Change.org petition, saying the wholesale company isn't allowing employees to wear anything in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
"A coworker of mine was wearing a face mask with the words 'Black Lives Matter' on it from Friday, Juneteenth until Sunday the 21st and was pulled into the office by two Assistant General Managers and was informed about this new 'Dress Code Policy' which ultimately led to my coworker no longer allowed to wear a mask that simply supports Human Rights," the Costco employee stated. "However, another coworker was allowed to wear a facemask with the symbol that represented 'Blue Lives Matter.'"
According to the Courier-Journal, Costco employees in Louisville and Chicago have made similar complaints about the company's dress code.
Starbucks reversed its dress code policy banning Black Lives Matter apparel after facing backlash, the Chicago Tribune reported.