Three former Whole Foods employees who accused the grocery chain of illegally firing them over their Black Lives Matter face masks had their lawsuit tossed Monday by a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs wrote that there was no significant evidence to determine that Whole Foods targeted the three plaintiffs when they were fired in the summer of 2020, according to Reuters.
Her dismissal of the lawsuit all but settled the question of whether former employees Haley Evans, Savannah Kinzer and Christopher Michno could claim protection from retaliation under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The evidence demonstrates only that Whole Foods did not strenuously enforce the dress code policy until mid-2020, and that when it increased enforcement, it did so uniformly,” Judge Burroughs wrote in her decision, according to the news outlet.
Whole Foods’ dress code doesn’t let employees wear anything with logos or brands other than those associated with the store.
The judge did acknowledge in her decision that “[this] holding is not about the importance of the Black Lives Matter message, the value of plaintiffs’ advocacy in wearing the masks, the valor of their speaking out against what they perceived to be discrimination in their workplace, or the quality of Whole Foods’ decision-making.”
The decision Monday ended a lengthy legal saga between the former employees and the grocery chain.
A lower court judge dismissed most of the employees’ original lawsuit against Whole Foods in February 2021, according to The Hill.
A 3-0 ruling by a federal appeals court in June upheld the previous ruling and found that the employees failed to adequately prove racial discrimination.
The employees first started wearing the Black Lives Matter masks in June 2020, around the same time that racial justice protests and riots swept the nation after George Floyd, a Black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis.
Derek Chauvin, the officer who was filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, was found guilty of murdering Floyd. Chauvin, a White man, was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison in the 2021 verdict.