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Whole Foods fires back in battle over Black Lives Matter mask ban

Story at a glance

  • A group of employees sued Whole Foods in July 2020, claiming they’d been forbidden from wearing Black Lives Matter masks at work and had been subsequently threatened with termination.
  • In October 2020, the company instituted a new dress code for its workers, banning them from wearing clothing that displayed visible logos, messages or flags.
  • In a released Dec. 17 court filing, Whole Foods claimed being forced to allow its employees to wear Black Lives Matter and other logos while working would violate is constitutional rights.

Whole Foods claimed being forced to allow its employees to wear Black Lives Matter and other logos while working would violate is constitutional rights, according to a newly released court filing. 

 

First obtained by Bloomberg through a Freedom of Information Act request, the Dec. 17 filing comes in response to claims by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that Whole Foods illegally barred its employees from donning Black Lives Matter masks at work. 

A group of employees sued Whole Foods in July 2020, claiming they’d been forbidden from wearing Black Lives Matter masks at work and had been subsequently threatened with termination if they continued to do so. In October 2020, months following the initiation of the lawsuit, the company instituted a new dress code for its workers, banning them from wearing clothing that displayed visible logos, messages or flags. 


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Prior to Whole Foods’ Dec. 17 filing, the NLRB claimed the company’s dress code was a violation of federal labor laws, which allow workers the right to take part in “concerted activities for their mutual aid and protection.” 

In a rebuttal, Whole Foods stated in its filing, “By singling out the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ the General Counsel is impermissibly favoring, and requiring that [Whole Foods] favor, certain expressions of political speech over others in its retail grocery stores.” 

The filing added, “The General Counsel seeks to compel employer speech by [Whole Foods] in violation of [Whole Foods’] rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and enforcement of any Order from the [NLRB] to compel such speech would violate the Constitution.” 

Changing America has reached out to the NLRB for comment. 


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