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Whole Foods Accused of Punishing Employees Who Supported Black Lives Matters

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Whole Foods Markets over four states for allegedly retaliating against employees who wore any apparel supporting Black Lives Matter. Fourteen employees from California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Washington claim they were sent home without pay, subjected to corrective action, and/or threatened with the loss of their jobs because they refused to stop wearing items reflecting Black Lives Matter.

Whole Foods’ dress code prohibits “visible slogans, messages, logos and advertising” that are not related to the company on all articles of clothing. The lawsuit claims that, in practice, other employees were permitted to wear articles that support other entities and causes such as sports teams and LGBTQ rights. The code was not strictly enforced, according to the lawsuit, until employees began wearing Black Lives Matter either on their masks or on their clothing. One worker named in a New York Times article claims that she wore a Black Lives Matter mask to work; she claims she was fired for wearing the mask and encouraging other works to wear similar masks. Another stated that she had been escorted out of her store after notifying her supervisors that she had filed claims of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Six employees at a store in Cambridge, Mass. Claim they were sent home without pay for wearing their masks.

Whole Food denies that any employees have been terminated for wearing Black Lives Matter on any masks or clothing. “We recognize, respect, and take steps to ensure we do not impinge on employees’ legal rights.” The lawsuit seeks an order from the court allowing employees to “wear the Black Lives Matter masks and other apparel at work.” In addition, the employees would like a reversal of the disciplinary action taken against them and back pay.