In the midst of a national backlash against police brutality and renewed discussion of Black Lives Matter, people are speaking up in support of BLM. As a result, in at least four cases, this speech, even when it has taken the form of apparel, has led to terminations by employers looking to dodge “political” standpoints.
In San Antonio, Texas, a teacher told local news sources that she was fired from her job at charter school Great Hearts Western Hills in late September, after she refused to stop wearing homemade masks emblazoned with slogans like “Silence Is Violence” and “Black Lives Matter.”
“This is human rights and it should be something that is promoted at our school. It’s an excuse to not talk about it by saying this is politics, talk about it on your own time. It’s just an excuse because they’re uncomfortable with the conversation,” White told CBS affiliate KENS 5 on September 21.
In Fort Worth, Texas, an attorney for a former Whataburger employee said the 19-year-old “lost her job at the fast-food chain shortly after her supervisor told her to remove her Black Lives Matter mask when a white customer complained,” according to a Texas Tribune report from September 26.
Other people are using the momentum of the George Floyd uprisings and the national attention on Black Lives Matter to bring lawsuits against former employers who they accuse of punishing employees for their support of the movement. Former ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ cast member Claudia Jordan announced on September 21 that she is suing Biago Cru & Estate Wines, because she believes the company ended its professional relationship with her in 2018 due to her social media posts in support of Black Lives Matter.
In the lawsuit, Jordan claims that a representative from the wine company told her that “her social media posts against police brutality of African-Americans were ‘too slanted.’”
On September 18, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a former police officer announced that he filed a lawsuit against the PPD, in order to get reinstated in a job he said he believes he lost for speaking up about the racism he experienced in the department as a Black man, and for “his support on social media for Black Lives Matter.”
These claims, and the corporate reasoning behind them, are the latest in a wave of reports on BLM-related terminations. In June, a Taco Bell employee claimed he was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter mask in the Youngstown, Ohio, location where he worked. Whole Foods workers sued their company in July, citing a series of firings and disciplinary actions for employees wearing Black Lives Matter apparel on the clock.
The employers accused of blocking their former employees’ BLM-related expression pointed to various, newly established rules about uniforms and masks when asked to justify their decisions. The superintendent at the San Antonio teacher’s charter school told KENS 5 that “a policy that face coverings have no external messages… authored by school leaders and teachers in service to the learning environment of our classrooms” was the reason behind the teacher’s firing.
The former Whataburger employee was told by her supervisor, in a taped conversation, that “Whataburger doesn’t want to get into anything political because we’re just hamburgers and fries.” The fast food chain later released a statement calling the reason for the worker’s termination “a disagreement over our company uniform policy.”
The Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to CBS Philly’s request for comment, but did deny the former officer a gun permit after he was terminated, saying he was “likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.” Biago Cru & Estate Wines told TMZ it cut contact with ex-Housewife Jordan over “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons; namely, dissatisfaction with Ms. Jordan’s ability to boost sales in relevant markets.”
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