An Arkansas Kroger store violated federal anti-discrimination law when it reportedly fired two employees who refused to wear LGBT-themed aprons due to their religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to the Miami Herald, a dress code by the Conway, Ark., grocery store required employees to wear a rainbow-colored heart emblem on the bib of the apron. The women believed the emblem endorsed LGBTQ values and that wearing it would violate their religious beliefs, the EEOC said in a news release summarizing the suit.
Kroger disciplined the two women and eventually fired them, an action that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The EEOC charges Kroger with religious discrimination.
Both women are Christian.
The two women offered to wear the apron with the emblem covered and the other offered to wear a different apron without the emblem, but the company made no attempt to accommodate their requests, the EEOC 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, said Delner-Franklin Thomas, district director of the EEOCs Memphis District Office. The EEOC protects the rights of the LGBTQ community, but it also protects the rights of religious people.
The EEOC tried but failed to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the news release said. The lawsuit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay and compensatory damages, as well as an injunction against future discrimination, the EEOC said.
The Kroger Company operates 2,758 grocery stores in 35 states under a variety of names, including Kroger and Harris Teeter.
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.