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Can We Just Live? From Desantis to the Failed Whole Foods Lawsuit, Black Folks Can't Catch a Break

U.S. District Judge Allison Burrough claims there wasn't enough evidence to refute the store's dress code.

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Image for article titled Can We Just Live? From Desantis to the Failed Whole Foods Lawsuit, Black Folks Can't Catch a Break
Photo: Ken Wolter (Shutterstock)

As if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis rejecting a proposed Advance Placement African American Studies pilot program wasn’t enough, earlier this week a federal judge in Boston threw out a discrimination lawsuit by three former Whole Foods workers.

The employees claimed they were illegally fired for speaking out against the store’s alleged unfair disciplinary policy for those who wore “Black Lives Matter” masks. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said there wasn’t enough evidence to refute Whole Foods’ “legitimate business explanations” for implementing the dress code.

Burroughs also stated that there was no vital evidence that the chain went after the plaintiffs—Haley Evans, Savannah Kinzer and Christopher Michno—by forcing them out in 2020. In the 28-page decision, the judge wrote:

“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. 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. It is about whether the record can support three retaliation claims under Title VII. Here, the Court finds that no reasonable jury could conclude by a preponderance of the evidence that Whole Foods’ reasons for Plaintiffs’ terminations were pretextual and motivated by discriminatory animus.”

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Whole Foods is part of Amazon.com Inc and explained that the grocery chain had merely took on its dress code to promote a safe and welcoming environment. These rules also apply to covering up slogans, ads and logos that are visible. A spokesperson for Whole Foods told Reuters that they are happy with the outcome.

Before the former employees were fired, they had reportedly filed legal complaints or threatened to. They also conducted press interviews critiquing Whole Foods’ dress code and orchestrated employee protests against the dress policy.