On Monday, an Obama-appointed federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from three former Whole Foods employees who claimed the supermarket illegally punished them for objecting to the prohibition against wearing “Black Lives Matter” masks at their workplace, The Hill reports.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled in favor of Whole Foods, noting that the grocery store did not unfairly target the BLM mask-wearing group when it began enforcing its dress code policy more strictly in the middle of 2020, compared to the way it had treated other employees who had broken the rule.
“This holding is not about the importance of the Black Lives Matter message, the value of Plaintiffs’ advocacy in wearing the masks, the valor of their speaking out against what they perceived to be discrimination in their workplace, or the quality of Whole Foods’ decision-making,” Burroughs ruled.
“It is about whether the record can support three retaliation claims under Title VII,” the judge added. “Here, the Court finds that no reasonable jury could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that Whole Foods’ reasons for Plaintiffs’ terminations were pretextual and motivated by discriminatory animus.”
The former employees had argued that Whole Foods unlawfully retaliated against them and that Whole Foods deviated from its normal termination procedures by asking senior executives to intervene.
“Plaintiffs have not identified any similarly situated employee who violated the dress code policy in a similar manner during this time and was treated differently than Plaintiffs,” Burroughs said. “The evidence demonstrates only that Whole Foods did not strenuously enforce the dress code policy until mid-2020, and that when it increased enforcement, it did so uniformly.”