The National Labor Relations Board’s San Francisco office filed a complaint in early December, noting that the grocery chain enforced its dress code last year when the Black Lives Matter protests were at its height. Whole Foods employees as well as workers from other companies in several industries joined in demonstrations nationwide to highlight racial inequities at work.
"Our dress code policy is designed to ensure we are giving team members a workplace and customers a shopping experience focused entirely on excellent service and high-quality food," a Whole Foods spokesperson said. "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."
But the National Labor Relations Board noted that Whole Foods was wrong to prevent its workers from engaging in “concerted activities for their mutual aid and protection" and to collectively act around workplace issues.
“Issues of racial harassment and discrimination are central to employees' working conditions, and the National Labor Relations Act protects employees' right to advocate for change," says Jill Coffman, the NLRB regional director in San Francisco. "Through this complaint, we seek to enforce the act and protect workers' rights to speak up about these important issues."