The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Kroger on behalf of two former Christian employees for anti-Christian bias because of a “rainbow heart” on their uniforms.
Brenda C. Lawson, 72, and Trudy K. Rickerd, 57, worked at the Kroger in Conway, Arkansas and they say they faced retaliation when they complained about a rainbow heart on the new aprons issued by their employer in April 2019.
The aprons aren’t exactly something you’d wear to Pride. Pictures of the uniform available online show that the rainbow heart is blue with yellow and red lines around it. Not only are half of the Pride flag’s colors missing, the colors don’t appear in equal amounts, are surrounded by sky blue, and don’t evoke Pride at all.
Kroger hasn’t publicly said that the heart was meant to imply support for LGBTQ people. Sometimes a heart is just a heart.
But it was still too much for Lawson and Rickerd, who said that they are Christians with a “literal interpretation of the Bible” and they believe “the practices of that [LGBTQ] community” are a sin.
Both of the employees complained to Kroger about the uniform. Rickerd hand-wrote a letter explaining that they “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…. 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.”
The two were eventually fired by Kroger on May 29 and June 1, 2019. They believe that Kroger targeted them because they spoke out against the rainbow, because other employees who covered it up with their name tag or just didn’t wear the apron weren’t fired.
The EEOC is taking the employees’ side, issuing letters that say there is “reasonable cause to believe” that Kroger violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibition on discrimination on the basis of religion.
Their lawsuit is asking for back pay and other compensation. The EEOC asked the federal court to make Kroger create policies “which provide equal employment opportunities for Lawson and Rickerd and which eradicate the effects of its past and present unlawful employment practices.”
Kroger isn’t commenting on the lawsuit.
In 2019, Donald Trump appointed corporate lawyer Janet Dhillon as Chair of the EEOC.