Wed, 19 Jan 2022

AUSTIN, Texas: In a court filing, Whole Foods has said that the U.S. forcing it to allow its employees to wear Black Lives Matter masks will violate the company's constitutional rights.

Lawyers for the Amazon-owned grocery chain made filings in response to to claims by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that Whole Foods illegally barred employees from wearing Black Lives Matter masks while working.

The document was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Bloomberg, which was the first to report on the filing.

In the filing, seen by Insider, Whole Foods accused the NLRB's general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, of attempting to violate the company's First Amendment rights by trying to "compel" speech.

"The General Counsel seeks to compel employer speech by Whole Foods Market (WFM) in violation of the WFM's rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and enforcement of any Order from the Board to compel such speech would violate the Constitution," the filing said.

The filing was released in response to a complaint made by the NLRB in early December.

A Whole Foods spokesperson told Insider that its dress-code policy was designed "to ensure we are giving Team Members a workplace and customers a shopping experience focused entirely on excellent service and high-quality food."

Some employees sued Whole Foods in July 2020, claiming the company forbade them from wearing Black Lives Matter masks at work and threatened them with termination if they did.

The lawsuit said that employees had "commonly worn Pride flags in support of their LGBTQ+ coworkers without being disciplined by Whole Foods," and that the company's "selective enforcement" of its dress code "constitutes unlawful discrimination."

Insider reported that Whole Foods announced a new dress code for all in-store workers prohibiting visible logos, slogans, messages or flags of any kind.

In a filing, the NLRB accused Whole Foods of violating federal labor law, which gives workers the right to engage in "concerted activities for their mutual aid and protection."

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