Employees at Whole Foods have accused the supermarket chain of discriminating against employees wearing Black Lives Matter masks at work,media CNET reported. In a class-action lawsuit filed Monday, employees accused Amazon-owned Whole Foods of firing employees or taking other disciplinary action against them for wearing masks with BLM messages.
The allegations appear to conflict with the public support of Amazon and CHIEF executive Jeff Bezos for BLM. Last month, Bezos released his response to racist customer emails, defending the Black Lives Matter banner that appeared on Amazon.com. The home appliance giant also pledged $10 million to organizations that help the black community and fight for social justice.
Because of the popularity of the new crown, Whole Foods employees must wear masks at work. After George Floyd was killed by police and protests across the country, some Whole Foods employees began wearing masks in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Although the supermarket has a dress code that prohibits employees from wearing items that have no company connection with the obvious slogan, message or logo, the lawsuit says the policy is generally not enforced. The lawsuit says Whole Foods employees had worn items in support of other sports, such as Pride flags, but were not disciplined.
“The actions of Whole Foods to its employees are not only illegal, but shameful,” Shannon Liss-RIordan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a press release Monday. “Whole Foods decided to selectively and arbitrarily enforce its dress code to specifically suppress the Black Lives Matter story, painting a picture of the company’s value that is not beautiful.”
Savannah Kinzer, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said she was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask and organizing other employees to do the same.
A Whole Foods spokesman said the company could not comment on pending litigation, but added that “no team member has been fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask or clothing.” Whole Foods said Kinzer was fired because of late arrivals and absenteeism.
A spokesman for Whole Foods confirmed that the company’s policy requires employees to wear dress code to attend the class. “As employers, we must uphold our policies in a fair and consistent manner,” the spokesman said. The company also said it has a zero-tolerance policy of retaliation from employees and provides team members with a variety of ways to report, including a confidential whistle-blowing hotline.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts on behalf of 14 employees of Whole Foods in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bedford, New Hampshire, Berkeley, California, and Seattle, Washington.