Whole Foods has hit back against an attempt to brand the company racist for disallowing Black Lives Matter apparel at work.
More than two dozen workers who wore the message and were disciplined for it sued the grocery chain, alleging that its discipline of employees in several states for wearing Black Lives Matter masks constituted unlawful racial discrimination in violation of Title VII. The plaintiffs also alleged that Whole Foods’ discipline of employees for opposing its policy was unlawful retaliation, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
On Feb. 5, however, a district court in Massachusetts dismissed most of the claims on the basis that the plaintiffs were of a variety of racial backgrounds and therefore were not being discriminated against.
The court let one retaliation claim proceed because the terminated plaintiff had already filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
Shannon Liss-Riordan, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said that the decision by Whole Foods and its parent company, Amazon, “to punish employees for expressing that Black Lives Matter, while allowing employees to express many other messages, is extremely troubling. We are planning to appeal the decision.”
A Whole Foods spokesperson said, “We remain dedicated to ensuring our team members feel safe and free from discrimination and retaliation at Whole Foods Market. We agree with the court’s decision and appreciate their time and attention.”