Rainbow refused … employees fired … employer sued

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

Kroger signThe Kroger Company is being sued by two former employees who say they were fired for not wanting to wear aprons displaying a rainbow symbol.

Brenda Lawson, 72, and Trudy Rickerd, 57 – both of whom worked several years for a Kroger store in Conway, Arkansas – said the rainbow symbol is a symbol of the LGBTQ community and therefore did not comport with their Christian beliefs about marriage and homosexuality. When they refused to wear what they considered to be an endorsement of the LGBTQ community, they were eventually fired within days of each other.

UPDATE: A Trump-appointed judge will be presiding over this religious liberty case

The two filed a lawsuit on September 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The complaint was filed earlier this month by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

"Most people are aware that Title VII protects against discrimination on the basis of race and color and sex and national origin," says EEOC general counsel Sharon Fast Gustafson, "but I think people are less aware that Title VII protects employees and applicants from discrimination in employment on the basis of religion."

Gustafson expects more of these types of cases will be forthcoming.

OneNewsNow reached out to a faith-based group in the Natural State.

"This is a case that is very important for anybody who values religious freedom," states David Cox of the Arkansas-based Family Council. "These are two Christians who said that they wanted some religious accommodation and … that Kroger said 'No ' – and they were fired as a result."

According to Cox, this isn't the first case of its kind that his organization has heard of in Arkansas.

"About a year or two ago, we were contacted by another employee at a different store," he explains. "It was not a Kroger store, but a different store in Arkansas. [Employees were] asked to wear a rainbow insignia at work, and this employee said they didn't want to do that because of their Christian beliefs."

After asking for and receiving information about legal options, Cox says that individual "felt like all the options would be too much work."

"So, this is not necessarily a unique case," Cox continues, "but it is the first one we've heard of in Arkansas where an employee has actually gone through with a lawsuit against the store – and so a lot of eyes are on the case for that reason."

According to the complaint filed with the EEOC, the supermarket chain didn't fire other employees who simply refused to wear the apron without citing religious beliefs.

Kroger did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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