Lawsuit, Whole Foods, Black Lives Matter Masks

Court Upholds Lawsuit Against Whole Foods Firing Employee For Black Lives Matter Mask

The lawsuit will return to the desk of the judge who previously dismissed the plaintiff's claims.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a lawsuit filed against Whole Foods about an allegedly illegal firing. The termination allegedly stemmed from an employee wearing a Black Lives Matter mask.

Former employee Savannah Kinzer claims that the upscale grocery chain unjustly fired her from their Cambridge, Massachusetts, location. The court believes that the termination did occur in a manner that “arguably deviated” from their standard disciplinary action. On April 23, they revealed their unanimous 3-0 vote to uphold the lawsuit, as reported by U.S. News.

The legal action against Whole Foods is intended to be a class action lawsuit against the company for their dress code prohibiting employees from wearing apparel with “Black Lives Matter” visible on it. Whole Foods maintained that their dress code provisions are meant to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for both customers and staff. They also stated that no logos, slogans, or ads were allowed. A judge dismissed the class action claims in 2022.

Despite this, Kinzer stated that the firing happened after she utilized her right to protest outside of the store, as well as refusing to take off the mask and speaking to the press. The incidents occurred during the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. She also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Whole Foods, however, argued that they fired Kinzer due to her attendance at the store. They claimed she garnered a terminating “attendance point” for wearing a mask that violated the dress code. Circuit Judge Kermit Lipez could not determine whether the store gave Kinzer an attendance point solely because of her protected right to wear a mask or not. He further stated that a jury should decide. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs dismissed the case in January 2023.

Now, her case has been returned to Judge Burroughs, despite the original dismissal. Neither attorneys on behalf of Kinzer nor Whole Foods have released a statement on the update.