Grocery store chain Whole Foods is attempting to ban its employees from wearing Black Lives Matter face masks while at work.
Lawyers for the Amazon-owned supermarket argued that the federal government is trying to infringe on its constitutional rights, according to court documents originally obtained by Bloomberg.
On Dec. 17, the company responded to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint that Whole Foods was violating federal law by instituting a workplace dress code that doesn’t allow for BLM apparel.
The chain said NLRB general counsel Jennifer Abruzzo is trying to violate its First Amendment rights by seeking to “compel employer speech,” or force the company to support a certain expression.
Whole Foods continued: “By singling out the phrase “Black Lives Matter” the General Counsel is impermissibly favoring, and requiring that WFM favor, certain expressions of political speech over others in its retail grocery stores.”
A spokesperson for the company recently told Business Insider that the dress code was imposed to “ensure we are giving Team Members a workplace and customers a shopping experience focused entirely on excellent service and high-quality food.”
“We do not believe we should compromise that experience by introducing any messages on uniforms, regardless of the content, that shift the focus away from our mission,” they said.
Some Whole Foods employees sued the grocery chain in July of 2020 after the policy was first announced and they were allegedly threatened with termination if they didn’t comply. Last year, a federal judge rejected nearly all of those workers’ claims, according to Reuters.
Bloomberg reports the case will go before a judge at trial in March.
We will stay on top of any developments with this story. Check back for updates.