According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Kroger has agreed to pay $180,000 to settle accusations of religious discrimination brought by two employees who disapproved of wearing a symbol that they believed supported the LGBTQ+ community. The Commission for Equal Opportunity in Employment
In 2020, a government agency sued on behalf of the former workers of a Kroger store in Conway, Arkansas. In a news release this week, the EEOC said that both workers were punished and then fired for refusing to wear aprons with a multicolored heart on them, which they thought looked like a rainbow pride flag. Additionally, it stated that Kroger disputes the claims of religious discrimination.
The sign is part of a marketing campaign that the grocery store chain started in 2019. The business said in court documents that the sign stands out because it is not a rainbow and only has four colors.
The EEOC says that as part of the settlement, Kroger agreed to make a policy for making religious accommodations and to improve its training for store managers about religious discrimination.
Even though one woman offered to wear the apron with the insignia covered and another offered to wear a different apron, the EEOC said in its lawsuit that Kroger didn’t do anything to accommodate the workers’ requests for religious exemptions.
Delner-Franklin Thomas, who was the district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office at the time and was in charge of Arkansas, Tennessee, and parts of Mississippi, said at the time that it was illegal to fire someone for asking for a religious accommodation. The EEOC “protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people.”
A request for comment from Kroger did not receive a prompt response.
The business, which has locations in 35 states, has announced a merger with Albertsons. The combined company would employ more than 710,000 people across 4,996 shops and other facilities.