A federal judge in Boston on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three workers with the Whole Foods grocery chain who claimed they were fired for wearing “Black Lives Matter” face masks.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs, in a 28-page decision, found little evidence to refute Whole Foods’ “legitimate business explanations” for strictly enforcing its dress code, and no significant evidence it targeted the plaintiffs by firing them in the summer of 2020.
“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,” she added.
Amazon-owned Whole Foods has maintained that it long enforced its dress code uniformly, which included visible slogans, logos and ads.
Burroughs said the three former employees, Haley Evans, Savannah Kinzer and Christopher Michno, could not claim protection from retaliation under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“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,” the judge wrote.
Whole Foods currently has 534 stores around the world, according to the company.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor did representatives for Whole Foods.