Kroger will pay $180,000 to settle religious discrimination claims filed on behalf of two workers who objected to wearing a symbol they saw as supporting the LGBTQ+ community, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The federal agency had filed a lawsuit on behalf of former employees of a Kroger store in Conway, Arkansas, in 2020. Both were disciplined and ultimately fired for refusing to wear aprons adorned with a multicolored heart, which they considered similar to a rainbow. pride flag,” the EEOC said in a press release last week. Kroger denies allegations of religious discrimination, he added.
Part of a marketing campaign introduced by the supermarket chain in 2019, the symbol is notably “not a rainbow and only includes four colors”, the supermarket chain said in court documents.
As part of the settlement, Kroger agreed to create a religious accommodation policy and improve its religious discrimination training for store managers, the EEOC said.
The EEOC said in its complaint that Kroger made no attempt to accommodate workers’ requests for religious exemptions, with one woman offering to wear the apron with the emblem covered and the other offering to wear a different apron, the agency said.
“It is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs,” said Delner-Franklin Thomas, district manager of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over the EEOC, at the time. Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Mississippi. “The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people.”
Kroger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company, which operates stores in 35 states, recently said it would merge with Albertsons and together employ over 710,000 people in 4,996 stores and other facilities.