Whole Foods has hit back at the Biden-appointed top labor board lawyer for demanding that staff be allowed to wear Black Lives Matter face masks to work, with the grocery giant accusing the labor board of violating the company’s First Amendment rights.

Twenty-seven plaintiffs in July 2020 accused Whole Foods, 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 plaintiffs said 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.

Whole Foods insisted that their company dress code prevented all logos and slogans, and said that the firm – owned by Amazon – supported the BLM movement.

Whole Foods employees wearing Black Lives Matter masks are seen outside the Cambridge, Massachusetts store in June 2020, after they were sent away for wearing the masks

Whole Foods employees wearing Black Lives Matter masks are seen outside the Cambridge, Massachusetts store in June 2020, after they were sent away for wearing the masks

Whole Foods employees wearing Black Lives Matter masks are seen outside the Cambridge, Massachusetts store in June 2020, after they were sent away for wearing the masks

Jennifer Abruzzo, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, has spoken in favor of employees being allowed to wear BLM face masks

Jennifer Abruzzo, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, has spoken in favor of employees being allowed to wear BLM face masks

Jennifer Abruzzo, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, has spoken in favor of employees being allowed to wear BLM face masks

In August, Jennifer Abruzzo, the legal counsel for the labor board, said that she was interested in cases involving ‘mutual aid or protection’.

In October, she told a webinar that federal law protects employees participating in Black Lives Matter protests, or demonstrations against crackdowns on undocumented workers. 

She argued that ‘racial justice advocacy’ by workers such as displaying a BLM slogan at work is part of the ‘group action to improve their lot as employees’. 

On December 17, Whole Foods denied Abruzzo’s claim that banning BLM masks violated employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act to engage ‘in concerted activities for their mutual aid and protection.’

Demonstrators are seen protesting outside Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA, in July 2020

Demonstrators are seen protesting outside Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA, in July 2020

Demonstrators are seen protesting outside Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA, in July 2020

Whole Foods, in a court filing obtained by Bloomberg, argued that it’s the one whose rights are being violated, because Abruzzo is trying to unconstitutionally ‘compel’ speech by Whole Foods in violation of its First Amendment rights. 

Whole Foods also accuses her of ‘unlawfully infringing upon and/or diluting WFM’s protected trademarks’ by trying to mandate that it allow the display of a ‘political message in conjunction with’ its trademarked uniforms and logos.

The case will be tried in March. 

Source: dailymail

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