In a surprise move, a federal administrative judge has tossed a complaint filed against Home Depot, which fired an employee for refusing to take off Black Lives Matter garb while on the job.
The National Labor Relations Board last August filed a discrimination complaint against the home improvement retailer on behalf of an employee in a Minneapolis Home Depot. The employee was “raising issues of racial harassment with coworkers and managers,” according to an agency press release. The worker also wore a BLM slogan on his uniform.
He was fired when he refused to take off the BLM paraphernalia and comply with the company dress code. Home Depot’s policy prohibited political sloganeering or promoting causes on employees’ uniforms that were unrelated to their jobs.
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The NLRB claimed it was within employees’ rights “to raise these [racial harassment] issues with the goal of improving their working conditions.”
A judge, however, disagreed in a ruling issued last Friday.
According to The Blaze, administrative Judge Paul Bogas tossed the case, ruling that “BLM messaging is not inherently concerted,” and that the group lacks “an objective, and sufficiently direct, relationship to terms and conditions of employment.”
“BLM messaging originated, and is primarily used, to address the unjustified killings of black individuals by law enforcement and vigilantes,” the judge noted. “To the extent the message is being used for reasons beyond that, it operates as a political umbrella for societal concerns and relates to the workplace only in the sense that workplaces are part of society.”
As examples of what he meant about an unfocused message, Bogas noted BLM has advocated: “defunding the police; convicting former President Donald Trump and banning him from political office and digital media platforms; expelling members of Congress who attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential 10 election; appropriately funding the U.S. Postal Service; supporting Amazon employees’ efforts to unionize; and calling attention to Black Women’s Equal Pay Day.”
Bogas also based his ruling in part on the testimony of Derek Bottoms, who was identified in court records as Home Depot’s chief diversity officer, and vice president of associate relations.
Bottoms, who is black, testified that BLM is a “political message, a political statement, a political movement” that is “unrelated to the workplace.” Bottoms believed the display of BLM violated the company’s uniform policy, records show.
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The case may not be over. Bogas’ decision could be appealed to the full NLRB, which has a 3-2 Democratic majority.
Home Depot is not the only company facing this situation.