Judge Rules in Favor of Home Depot, Against Displaying ‘Black Lives Matter’ Messaging on Job

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A judge on Friday dismissed a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint against Home Depot claiming that the company violated employee rights by prohibiting workers from wearing Black Lives Matter (BLM) imagery while on the job.

The complaint was filed in March 2021 by an employee at Home Depot’s Minnesota store. Based on the document, the worker had been wearing a BLM logo on his apron since August 2020 and engaged in related conversations with coworkers. The employee was suspended in 2021 following a refusal to remove the logo and later resigned.

The Atlanta-based home improvement store’s dress code prohibits displays of “causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters.”

NLRB lawyers argued that raising issues regarding racial harassment and displaying a BLM slogan were all protected actions under the National Labor Relations Act. The complaint also alleged that the store “threatened employees not to engage in activity regarding racial harassment,” according to a press release.

“The Home Depot does not tolerate workplace harassment of any kind and takes all reports of discrimination or harassment seriously, as we did in this case,” said the Home Depot spokesperson Sara Gorman, dismissing the allegations as misrepresentations, according to HR organization SHRM. “We disagree with the characterization of this situation and look forward to sharing the facts during the NLRB’s process.”

NLRB lawyers did not argue on the political nature of the BLM organization. It stressed that the employee was “required to choose between engaging in protected concerted activity, including displaying the ‘BLM’ slogan” and quitting employment at the New Brighton facility.

The NLRB defines concerted activity as actions done with coworkers for the purposes of improving work conditions, earnings, and related engagement.

NLRB Judge Paul Bogas wrote in his opinion that BLM messaging does not fall within employees’ protected concerted activity and that the plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently reason their argument. BLM logo displays offer nothing to “improve [their] terms and conditions of employment.”

“BLM messaging is not inherently concerted. Nor does it have an objective, and sufficiently direct, relationship to terms and conditions of employment to fall within the mutual aid and protection clause.”

By Naveen Athrappully

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