Federal Suit Claims Grocery Chain Fired Employees Who Wouldn't Wear 'Gay' Apron

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday September 17, 2020

Federal Suit Claims Grocery Chain Fired Employees Who Wouldn't Wear 'Gay' Apron
  (Source:AP Photo/LM Otero)

A federal agency has brought suit against Kroger's, a major grocery chain, claiming that the company discriminated against the religious convictions of two employees who refused to wear aprons embroidered with "gay" hearts, reports the Cincinnati Business Courier.

The employees believed that the heart-shaped symbols on uniform aprons issued in 2019 promoted the LGBTQ community, interpreting the color scheme - layers of red and yellow stitching with a light blue outline against the apron's dark blue color - to be a "rainbow" palette. Because they took the heart pattern to be "gay," they refused to wear the aprons on religious grounds, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - a federal agency - filed suit against the company on Sept. 14 on behalf of Brenda C. Lawson and Trudy K. Rickerd, both of whom worked at a Kroger's store located in Conway, Arkansas. Both women were fired in 2019 after they notified the store they believed the heart-shaped symbol violated their religious beliefs, reported The Miami Herald. The suit alleges that the firings were retaliatory and violated the women's religious rights.

In a letter to her employer, Rickerd stated, "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."

Kroger had never stated that the heart-shaped design was intended to portray a rainbow motif or suggest support for the LGBTQ community, media. At least one individual posting on Twitter noted that the heart shape and color scheme seemed to be directly linked to an ad campaign.

The heart motif and color scheme are prominently depicted in photos appearing at the company's "Promise Team" Facebook page.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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