Home Depot wins ruling denying right to wear BLM at work (1)

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A lawsuit filed by U.S. Labor Commission prosecutors against Home Depot Inc. — for allegedly interfering with workers’ rights to protest racial harassment — should be fired, an agency judge ruled on Friday.

The General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board of the United States had alleged that the company violated federal labor law by preventing staff from displaying the “Black Lives Matter” message on their aprons, as well as threatening and punishing employees to discourage collective action.

The NLRB declined to comment. A Home Depot representative did not immediately respond to a request. The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer said the agency “misrepresents relevant facts” and is “fully committed to diversity and respect for all.”

Federal labor law protects the right of employees, with or without a union, to engage in collective action regarding working conditions. In the Home Depot case, and another against Amazon.com Inc.‘s Whole Foods Market, the agency’s general counsel argued that employers breached this law by banning staff from wearing Black Lives Matter messages on their clothing.

In his judgment on Friday, the administrative judge Paul Bogas wrote that Black Lives Matter messages lacked “an objective and sufficiently direct relationship to terms and conditions of employment” to be legally protected.

The message “was born and is used primarily to address the wrongful killings of black people by law enforcement and vigilantes,” he wrote. “To the extent that the message is used for reasons other than that, it functions as a political umbrella for societal concerns and is only relevant to the workplace in the sense that workplaces are part of society.”

Whole Foods has denied any wrongdoing in its case, which is being considered in an ongoing trial by a San Francisco-based agency judge.

The decisions of the agency’s judges can be appealed to the Washington-based labor commission members, among whom the Democrats now hold the majority, and from there to a federal court.

(Updates to include details on the ruling.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Josh Eidelson in Palo Alto at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
John J. Edwards III to [email protected]

jonathan roder

© 2022 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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