A major supermarket chain is facing a lawsuit after firing two employees over their refusal to wear a rainbow emblem that violates their religious beliefs as part of their work uniform.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the Kroger Company Monday in response to action taken by Kroger Store No. 625 in Conway, Arkansas, against two employees. The employees were terminated after they refused to abide by the new dress code, which required them to wear an apron depicting a rainbow-colored heart emblem.
The women contended that wearing the apron would amount to an endorsement of the LGBTQ movement, which contradicts their religious beliefs. According to the EEOC, “one woman offered to wear the apron with the emblem covered and the other offered to wear a different apron without the emblem, but the company made no attempt to accommodate their requests.”
The EEOC alleged that when the women continued to refuse to wear the apron with the emblem visible, “Kroger retaliated against them by disciplining and ultimately discharging them.”
Kroger’s actions violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, argued the EEOC, which is working to secure “monetary relief in the form of back pay and compensatory damages” for the two women “as well as an injunction against future discrimination.”
“Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs,” said Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis office, which has jurisdiction over the case. “The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people.”
The EEOC complaint comes more than a year after both women were fired from the supermarket chain. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, one of the women, Brenda Lawson, worked in the deli department at the store from 2011 until her termination on June 1, 2019. The other woman, Trudy Rickerd, worked as a cashier and file maintenance clerk from 2006 until her termination on May 29, 2019.
The complaint cited a letter written by Rickerd explaining her objection to wearing the apron. “I have a sincerely held religious belief that I cannot wear a symbol that promotes or endorses something that is in violation of my religious faith … I am happy to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger,” she said.
This is not the first time that Kroger has found itself subject to a lawsuit from the EEOC. Last year, Kroger had to pay $40,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit that was filed after it fired a visually impaired new employee who requested an accommodation for a portion of the new employee orientation.
The Christian Post reached out to Kroger for comment. A representative from the supermarket chain said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation.”
Kroger is not the only supermarket chain to face scrutiny about its dress code policy. Two weeks ago, former Food Lion employee and Air Force veteran Gary Dean detailed how he left the company because he was told that he could not wear a face mask emblazoned with the American flag on the job.
After thousands of Americans had viewed Dean’s Facebook post, Food Lion contacted Dean and told him that it was changing its mask policy to permit employees to wear American flag masks.