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NLRB Accuses Home Depot of Racism

Home Depot fired a worker for complaining about racism & wearing BLM on apron

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 18, 2021

Home Depot is coming under fire after the NLRB filed a complaint against the company for banning employees from taking part in protected speech on the job.

The case came after an employee at a Minneapolis Home Depot location raised issues of racial harassment from their coworkers and managers. The employee protested this treatment by displaying a Black Lives Matter slogan on his apron, which is a protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and talking to their co-workers about the harassment. They began wearing the slogan in August of 2020, which was the height of the Black Lives Matter movement when many companies were willing to share the slogan Black Lives Matter on social media and in advertising. The complaint from the NLRB also alleges that the store unlawfully enforced its otherwise lawful dress code and apron policies and threatened employees telling them not to engage in activity regarding racial harassment. The complaint then says that the employee’s activity around these issues, including refusing to remove the slogan from their apron, led to them being suspended and then discharged. The complaint was filed by NLRB Region 18.

While Home Depot’s dress code bans displays for “causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters” on their clothing or aprons is not illegal, the agency believes that because the employee was wearing the slogan to bring attention to racial discrimination and harassment at the store it is protected activity. The complaint found that the employee was told to stop wearing the slogan and if they refused, they should quit. The company also told employees in February that if they “engaged in protected concerted activities regarding racial harassment,” they would face “unspecified consequences.”

While the case is currently just a regional complaint, the NLRB is looking at making it a national case since Home Depot has decided to apply its policy to all of its 2,200 stores in the US, Mexico, and Canada. This would allow the NLRB to notify all Home Depot workers of their rights to stand up to racial harassment on the job.

Regional Director Jennifer Hadsall noted, “Issues of racial harassment directly impact the working conditions of employees. The NLRA protects employees’ rights to raise these issues with the goal of improving their working conditions. It is this important right we seek to protect in this case.”

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