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

A complaint by the US Chamber of Labor prosecutors against it Home Depot Inc. — for allegedly interfering with workers’ rights to protest racial harassment — should be sacked, an agency judge ruled on Friday.

The General Counsel of the US National Labor Relations Board had done so allegedly that the company violated the federal Labor Code by preventing employees from putting the Black Lives Matter message on their aprons and by threatening and punishing employees to discourage collective action.

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

The federal labor law protects the right of workers, with or without a union, to participate in collective action to improve 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 had violated that law by banning employees from wearing Black Lives Matter messages on their clothing.

In his verdict on Friday administrative judge Paul Boga wrote that Black Lives Matter messaging “does not have an objective and sufficiently direct relationship to employment conditions” to be legally protected.

The message “was created and is used primarily to address the unjustified killings of black people by law enforcement and vigilantes,” he wrote. “To the extent that the message is used for broader purposes, it functions as a political umbrella for societal concerns and relates to the workplace only in the sense that jobs are part of society.”

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

Agency judges’ decisions can be appealed to Washington-based Labor Board members, now majority Democrats, and from there in federal courts.

(Updates to include details of the verdict.)

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 at [email protected]

Jonathan Roeder

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