Kroger has agreed to pay $180,000 to settle a lawsuit that involved two employees who say they were fired for refusing to wear LGBT-themed aprons due to their religious beliefs.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the women by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the final months of the Trump administration. The EEOC is a bipartisan commission that includes appointees of both President Biden and former President Donald Trump.
According to the suit, a Conway, Ark., grocery store “engaged in religious discrimination when it disciplined and ultimately fired the employees for refusing to wear an apron with the company’s ‘Our Promise’ symbol because they believed it represented support for the LGBTQ+ community,” an EEOC news release said.
Kroger denies the allegations.
As part of the settlement, Kroger will pay $180,000 and “create a religious accommodation policy and provide enhanced religious discrimination training to store management,” EEOC said.
“The EEOC commends Kroger on its decision to create a policy describing the process for requesting a religious accommodation,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis district office. “This policy will provide guidelines for requesting religious accommodation. The parties in the case worked in good faith to resolve this matter, and the Commission is pleased with the resolution.”
The apron depicted a “rainbow-colored heart emblem on the bib,” and the two employees believed that wearing it would “violate their religious beliefs,” the EEOC said.
One woman “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.
When the women “still refused to wear the apron with the emblem visible,” the EEOC said, Kroger “retaliated against them by disciplining and ultimately discharging them.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate in the workplace.
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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.