NLRB Rules Against Home Depot in BLM Logo Case

HR & Safety

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Feb. 21 that Home Depot violated federal labor law by enforcing a policy forbidding employees from wearing political messages.

In a 3-1 decision, the board determined Home Depot broke the law when it conditioned the employee’s continued employment on the removal of Black Lives Matter insignia from their work apron.

The board overturned an NLRB administrative law judge’s 2022 dismissal of a compliant filed by the employee, who resigned in 2021 after being suspended for refusing to remove the hand-drawn letters “BLM.”

Two other employees at the Minnesota store were also asked to remove BLM messages, and another was asked to remove “Thin Blue Line” messaging. All complied and returned to work.

The employee featured in the complaint declined to accept a district manager’s suggestion to use alternative wording, such as “diversity,” “equality” or “inclusion.”

‘Legal Right’

“The National Labor Relations Act protects the legal right of employees to engage in ‘concerted activities’ for the purpose of ‘mutual aid or protection,'” the NLRB said in a statement.

“Applying existing precedent, the board reasoned that the employee’s refusal to remove the BLM marking was ‘concerted’ because it was a ‘logical outgrowth’ of prior concerted employee protests about racial discrimination in that (or ‘their’) workplace and because it was an attempt to bring those group complaints to the attention of Home Depot managers.

“The employee’s conduct was also ‘for mutual aid or protection’ because the issue of racial discrimination involved employees’ working conditions.”

The NLRB decision documented a pattern of discriminatory behavior by another store employee.

The NLRB decision documented a pattern of discriminatory behavior by another store employee and the destruction of a Black History Month display in the period leading up to the worker’s resignation.

“It is well-established that workers have the right to join together to improve their working conditions—including by protesting racial discrimination in the workplace,” said NLRB chair Lauren McFerran.

“It is equally clear that an employee who acts individually to support a group protest regarding a workplace issue remains protected under the law.”

Other Cases

The Home Depot case is one of several tackling the issue of civil rights apparel in the workplace following the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In December 2023, an NLRB administrative judge ruled that Whole Foods Market Inc. did not violate workers’ labor rights by prohibiting them from wearing Black Lives Matter face masks, shirts, and other apparel.

The case was brought in 2020 by 14 Whole Foods employees in four states who claimed they were illegally disciplined for violating the company’s dress code policy.

An NLRB judge ruled that Whole Foods did not violate workers’ labor rights by prohibiting them from wearing Black Lives Matter face masks.

The NLRB general counsel is expected to appeal the judge’s ruling in that case to the board.

A federal judge in Boston dismissed a case last January brought by three fired Whole Foods employees, ruling the company had legitimate business reasons to strictly enforce a dress code banning visible slogans or logos.

That decision was upheld by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June.


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