WHOLE Foods has won a controversial legal battle against three former coworkers over a Black Lives Matter mask dispute.
Haley Evans, Savannah Kinzer, and Christopher Michno claimed their firings were retaliation and a violation of the Civil Rights Act, but the judge sided with an existing Whole Foods rule in the end.
According to court filings, Evans and Kinzer were actually let go for racking up absences when they were sent home after refusing to take off the masks.
Michno was fired for repeated dress code violations.
The judge’s rule points to Whole Foods’ existing dress code policy which prevents workers from wearing clothing with “any visible slogan, message, logo or advertising” unless it was branded with the Whole Foods logo.
“Whole Foods Market’s dress code policy has long promoted a welcoming, safe, and inclusive shopping environment focused entirely on high-quality food,” a Whole Foods spokesperson told Supermarket News.
“We are pleased with the outcome and appreciate the court’s time and attention to this matter.”
The three ex-employees began to wear the masks after the 2020 murder of George Floyd and proceeding riots.
All employees were required to wear face coverings at this time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They said they wished to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement while also standing against the Whole Foods policy which they deemed discriminatory.
In the lawsuit, they also claimed that they were disproportionately targeted compared to other employees who also broke the dress code and didn’t follow the attendance policy.
When they were fired, the three alleged that the company “deviated from normal termination procedures.”
The lawsuit came after another court sided with Whole Foods and Amazon in June of last year after the company faced similar complaints of discrimination for banning the masks.
US District Judge Allison D Burroughs announced her ruling this week, saying that the three failed to provide convincing evidence that the company fired them out of retaliation.
“There is little evidence in the record to refute Whole Foods’ legitimate business explanations for its strict enforcement of its dress code policy against the wearing of Black Lives Matter masks and its termination of plaintiffs as a result, however unwise they might have been,” she said.