(RightIsRight.co) – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by three former Whole Foods employees who claimed that the grocery chain unlawfully retaliated against them for opposing a workplace ban on Black Lives Matter masks.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs, an Obama-appointed judge, granted summary judgment in favor of Whole Foods, stating that the company did not treat the workers differently than similarly situated ones who violated its dress code policy when the chain stepped up enforcement in mid-2020.
Many Whole Foods employees began wearing Black Lives Matter masks following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, violating the company’s dress code, which prohibits clothing containing any visible messages or slogans unless it was branded with Whole Foods’s logo.
The disputes gained significant media attention, and a group of employees who wore the masks filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Amazon-owned business in July 2020.
Burroughs previously dismissed nearly all of their claims in a ruling later upheld by an appeals panel. Still, she left alive one claim of unlawful retaliation brought by a former employee at a Cambridge, Mass., store.
However, Monday’s order tossed out that claim, which was augmented by two additional retaliation claims by former Whole Foods workers in New Jersey and California.
Before their firings, the three employees had either filed legal complaints or threatened to do so, conducted press interviews bashing Whole Foods’ dress code, or led employee protests against the policy.
They argued that Whole Foods unlawfully retaliated against them for the protected conduct, in part noting that Whole Foods deviated from its standard termination procedures by involving senior executives.
In her ruling, Burroughs stated, “Plaintiffs have not identified any similarly situated employee who violated the dress code policy in a similar manner during this time and was treated differently than Plaintiffs.”
She added, “The evidence demonstrates only that Whole Foods did not strenuously enforce the dress code policy until mid-2020, and that when it increased enforcement, it did so uniformly.”
Judge upholds Whole Foods’s firing of workers who wore Black Lives Matter masks https://t.co/e6JtQmL7N6 pic.twitter.com/uyDoVZyY7V
— The Hill (@thehill) January 24, 2023