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Tags: whole foods | amazon | appeals court | blm

Whole Foods Employees Lose Appeal Over Black Lives Matter Masks

a woman walks past a whole foods market
(Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 30 June 2022 10:59 AM EDT

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an appeal from former Whole Foods Market employees who claim they were disciplined for wearing masks reading "Black Lives Matter."

The Whole Foods employees filed a lawsuit against the upscale grocery store chain, and its parent company Amazon, in 2020, claiming that the dress code, which prohibits "visible slogans, messages, logos, or advertising that are not company-related," was only enforced when it came to BLM-imprinted masks.

According to the complaint, the employees alleged that the dress code's enforcement amounted to racial discrimination and violated Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

In a 3-0 decision, the 1st Circuit upheld a lower court's ruling and said the employees failed to prove racial discrimination or retaliation.

"We ultimately reach the same conclusion as the district court that appellants have failed to adequately plead their claim," the ruling read.

Whole Foods' timing "may be explained by the obvious alternative explanation that Whole Foods did not want to allow the mass expression of a controversial message by employees in their stores," Circuit Judge Kermit Lipez wrote in the decision.

A lower court judge dismissed almost every aspect of the employees' suit against Whole Foods in February 2021.

"At worst, they were selectively enforcing a dress code to suppress certain speech in the workplace," U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs wrote at the time, according to Reuters. "However unappealing that might be, it is not conduct made unlawful by Title VII."

Shannon Liss-Riordan, a lawyer for the employees, told the news outlet they were disappointed and were evaluating their options. She also represents workers before the National Labor Relations Board.

Reuters reports that Whole Foods applauded Tuesday's decision, saying its dress code has long fostered a "welcoming, safe, and inclusive shopping environment."

The proposed class action suit covered employees in Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, according to Reuters.

In a statement to The Hill, Whole Foods previously commended Burroughs' decision.

"We remain dedicated to ensuring our team members feel safe and free from discrimination and retaliation at Whole Foods Market," a Whole Foods spokesperson said at the time. "We agree with the court's decision and appreciate their time and attention."

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Newsfront
In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down an appeal from former Whole Foods Market employees who claim they were disciplined for wearing masks reading “Black Lives Matter."
whole foods, amazon, appeals court, blm
393
2022-59-30
Thursday, 30 June 2022 10:59 AM
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