Home Depot banning employee BLM attire: Is federal judge right to uphold?


Fact Box

  • On June 10, 2022, a National Labor Relations Board judge Paul Bogas ruled to dismiss a former Home Depot employee’s 2021 case alleging the company discriminated against workers wearing Black Lives Matter slogans on their aprons. 
  • Bogas stated BLM imagery did not have “an objective, and sufficiently direct, relationship to terms and conditions of employment” and therefore, did not have legal grounds to move forward in a case. 
  • The employee asserted their decision to wear a BLM slogan was “a symbol of alliance” and “a way for people to feel safe around me” while Home Depot, Inc. noted the BLM movement caused “occasioned civil unrest in the vicinity of the New Brighton store and elsewhere.” 
  • Black Lives Matter (BLM) was established in 2013 in response to the Trayvon Martin case (2012). It operates under the premise of “eradicating white supremacy, building power against violence, and creating space for Black innovation.”

Curtice (Yes)

A federal judge correctly dismissed a case brought by a former Home Depot employee alleging the company wrongly banned workers from wearing a Black Lives Matter slogan on their aprons. Home Depot is in the business of selling products and materials for home improvement projects. It need not engage in political issues on either side. In fact, as Disney and other corporations are learning the hard way, diving into political causes leads to friction among employees and alienates a good portion of their customer base.

Home Depot's uniform policy clearly bans political or religious messages 'unrelated to workplace matters.' BLM is nothing, if not political, much in the same way that Planned Parenthood or Right to Life organizations are political. To further bolster the point, lawyers for Home Depot noted that an employee wearing 'Thin Blue Line' messaging was told in equal measure to remove that as well. That employee complied. Home Depot appears to have applied its policy uniformly. Likewise, this Home Depot in question stood close to the George Floyd incident site—the region had already seen so much damage in recent years due to BLM marches that turned to destructive riots

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has stated that 'purely individual protests, aimed only at benefiting the employee and not co-workers as well, are not protected.' The judge properly ruled that displaying a BLM slogan on a uniform is not 'directly relevant to the terms, conditions, or lot of Home Depot's employees as employees,' and therefore leaves the right to dictate what employees wear to the employer, where it belongs. 

Tyler (No)

By dismissing the case presented by a Home Depot worker regarding displaying BLM slogans on their uniform, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is turning a blind eye to the restrictiveness of the company. Employees should be allowed to represent their beliefs freely as long as it does not interfere with the manner in which they go about doing their job. According to their lawyer, Home Depot blamed BLM for causing division and civil unrest. The lawyer is blatantly ignoring what caused this 'civil unrest' in the first place.

The New Brighton, Minnesota Home Depot that these allegations occurred at is just 12 miles from the site at which George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the police. Due to the proximity, this may have an even stronger and more frightening effect on those that were near the situation. Home Depot is discouraging worker individuality by not allowing these Minnesota residents to stand against the atrocities that occurred just minutes from the site and their homes.

Home Depot's district management likened being able to wear a BLM slogan to allowing an employee to embroider and wear a swastika on their work uniforms 'in fairness.' The Nazi movement is responsible for the death of millions and certainly wasn't formed as a response to social injustice against minorities. There are no parallels between the BLM movement and the Nazi movement except for the fact that they were both made up of human beings. Home Depot should allow their workers to show support for an important cause affecting us today.

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