Judge rejects Whole Foods employees’ claims over Black Lives Matter face masks

Businesses in midtown Manhattan boarded up during continued protests in New York
The entrance to a Whole Foods Market is seen boarded up in midtown Manhattan during protests against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in New York City, U.S., June 2, 2020.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

A federal judge on Friday dismissed nearly all of a lawsuit accusing upscale grocery chain Whole Foods Market of illegally punishing workers who wore Black Lives Matter face masks on the job.

Whole Foods had been accused in a proposed nationwide class action filed in Boston of selectively enforcing its dress code banning “visible slogans, messages, logos or advertising” unrelated to the company.

The 27 plaintiffs contended that Whole Foods would send workers home without pay or impose disciplinary actions for wearing the masks and related apparel, even as it let employees wear masks bearing political messages and sports team logos.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs, however, concluded that Whole Foods and its parent, Amazon.com Inc, did not violate federal civil rights law or discriminate on the basis of race.

“At worst, they were selectively enforcing a dress code to suppress certain speech in the workplace,” she wrote.

The judge allowed one plaintiff to pursue a retaliation claim against Whole Foods.