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Judge awards Home Depot victory after employee fired for wearing Black Lives Matter messaging

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A government judge ruled on Friday in favor of Home Depot, dismissing a case brought by a former employee who was fired for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter slogan from his work uniform.

What is the background?

The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Home Depot last August after a Minnesota employee was fired for wearing a BLM slogan on his apron.

The NLRB complaint accused Home Depot of having "discriminated" against the employee "for raising issues of racial harassment with coworkers and managers and displaying a Black Lives Matter slogan on his apron," conduct the agency says is protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

Home Depot prohibits employees from wearing anything — whether on their Home Depot apron or otherwise — that promotes "causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters."

The NLRB argued that messages related to BLM should not fall under the policy. In fact, the agency claimed the employee was engaging in "protected concerted activity," which the NLRB defines as discussing with co-workers how to improve work conditions and compensation, petitioning for better work hours, and discussing work-related problems with the employer, government, or media.

What happened now?

Administrative law Judge Paul Bogas has dismissed the case.

In his ruling, Bogas explained that "BLM messaging is not inherently concerted," and that BLM rhetoric 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," Bogas explained. "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."

In a statement provided to TheBlaze, a spokesperson for Home Depot praised the ruling:

We don’t tolerate workplace harassment of any kind and take all reports of discrimination or harassment extremely seriously. We’re pleased with the judge’s decision and believe it affirms our value of respect for all people.

Rulings by NLRB agency judges can be appealed to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C., which is currently composed of three Democrats and two Republicans. From there, the matter can be settled in federal court.

Editor's Note: This story was updated to include a statement from Home Depot.

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