The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against supermarket chain Kroger on behalf of two women who said the store fired them after they refused to wear aprons that included an LGBTQ symbol, ABC News reported.
What are the details?
The lawsuit claims ex-workers Brenda Lawson and Trudy Rickerd said the company implemented a policy in April 2019 that required employees to wear an apron that included a rainbow heart, which they say endorses LGBTQ values, the network said.
The women claimed wearing the symbol would violate their religious beliefs, and that they even tried to offer alternatives, ABC News said, citing the lawsuit.
Lawson, who was 72 at the time, said she offered to wear the apron with her name tag covering the emblem, but the Conway, Arkansas, store allegedly refused, the network said.
"I am requesting a reasonable accommodation of this dress code with regard to my religious belief," she wrote in a letter requesting religious accommodations, ABC News said, citing the lawsuit. "I am simply asking to wear my name badge over the heart logo."
Rickerd, who was 57 at the time, said she offered to wear a different apron without the emblem and sent a letter explaining why she felt she couldn't comply with the policy, the network reported.
"I have a sincerely held religious belief that I cannot wear a symbol that promotes or endorses something that is in violation of my religious faith," she wrote in the letter, ABC News said, citing the lawsuit. "I respect others who have a different opinion and am happy to work alongside others who desire to wear the symbol. I am happy to buy another apron to ensure there is no financial hardship on Kroger."
How did Kroger allegedly respond to the women's requests?
Kroger, the country's largest supermarket chain, allegedly denied both requests and retaliated against the women by disciplining and ultimately firing them, the network reported, citing the lawsuit.
ABC News said Teresa Dickerson, a Kroger communication representative, declined the network's request for comment and cited a standard against speaking publicly on pending litigation.
The network — citing the lawsuit — added that Kroger didn't fire other employees who declined to wear the new apron or covered the heart emblem without requesting religious accommodations.
The EEOC — which is in charge of enforcing anti-workplace discrimination laws — filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on Monday, ABC News said. The federal watchdog's suit alleges conduct that violates the Title VII, a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, the network said.
"Companies have an obligation under Title VII to consider requests for religious accommodations, and it is illegal to terminate employees for requesting an accommodation for their religious beliefs," Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOC's Memphis District Office, said in a statement Tuesday, according to ABC News.
The suit seeks back pay and other compensatory damages as well as an injunction against future discrimination, the network said.