Members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointed by President Joe Biden are going after Whole Foods for claims that the company violated First Amendment rights by not allowing its employees to wear Black Lives Matter (BLM) masks while working.
The NLRB claims that the Whole Foods dress code violates the Constitution.
In July, 2020, a group of employees sued the food chain after being told that wearing Black Lives Matter was not allowed. In October 2020, Whole Foods put in a place a new dress code policy that banned employees from wearing apparel that displayed messages, flags and other logos.
Employees said that the new dress code violated their First Amendment rights, but Whole Foods countered with the argument that forcing the company to allow its employees to wear masks with logos violated the company’s constitutional rights.
The NLRB insisted that Whole Foods’ dress code violates federal labor laws.
But Whole Foods disagrees and maintained that it has the right to ban employees from wearing “Black Lives Matter” and other masks. The company also insisted any attempt by the NLRB to overturn company policy violates its First Amendment rights.
“By singling out the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ the General Counsel (of the NLRB)is impermissibly favoring, and requiring that [Whole Foods] favor, certain expressions of political speech over others in its retail grocery stores,” Whole Foods insisted.
In February 2021, a federal judge dismissed lawsuits from Whole Foods employees who said the company illegally punished them for wearing BLM masks during work hours.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Whole Foods and its parent, Amazon.com Inc., did not participate in racial discrimination or violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Whole Foods has stated that its dress code is “facially neutral” and points out along with their parent company Amazon has supported the BLM movement.
The new Biden appointees to the NLRB have said federal labor laws should protect employees who support and become involved in certain political or social justice advocacy efforts in the workplace.