Publix supermarkets said it won’t allow workers to wear Black Lives Matter garb due to the company’s prohibition against any messaging not associated with the chain’s brand.
The company’s statement came in response to a Black teen employee at a supermarket in Florida who saying he was sent home after wearing a Black Lives Matter mask to work.
Earlier this month, Quinton Desamours wrote “BLM” on his paper mask and went to work at the Publix in Lehigh Acres, Florida, NBC affiliate WBBH in Fort Myers reported.
Later in the day, he tweeted: “Today @Publix sent me, a Publix employee, home for having ‘BLM’ written on my mask. The assistant store manager told me he doesn’t know if the company is ‘Pro or Con.’ I will no longer be working for publix. Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything! #blacklivesmatterFL.”
“Honestly, I was just speechless,” Desamours, 18, told WBBH, about what he said were the assistant manager’s comments. “He told me the company hasn’t issued a statement and that he doesn’t know if they’re pro or con on the issue, and that I am endangering myself and everyone who worked there.”
Desamours said the policy is not enforced equally. “Many, many employees have different designs on their masks,” he said. “There is an employee that has a comic strip on his mask. So, it seems like they just didn’t like the message I was trying to portray.”
In a statement sent to NBC News, Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said the company does not accept racism, but the uniform policy will hold.
“At Publix, we reject racism and believe diversity makes our company — and our community — better,” Brous said. “Our focus remains on ensuring a welcoming work and shopping environment for all associates and customers. Our uniform policy does not permit non-Publix messaging on clothing or accessories.”
Desamours tweeted three days after the incident to say he had received a call from a Publix district manager apologizing.
“They also said they don’t want to be apart of political views. #Black Lives Matter is not political,” the teen wrote. “The movement is all about Equality.
Publix, which has more than 1,200 locations clustered mainly in the Southeast, also responded to Desamours on Twitter, encouraging him to reach out to an associate relations specialist and noting the chain’s policy on uniforms.”
The company also pointed both Desamours and NBC News to a letter CEO Todd Jones “sent to associates calling for compassion and empathy.”
“Today, it’s evident that our support and compassion are required on an even deeper level,” Jones wrote in the letter, pledging to contribute $1 million to National Urban League affiliates across the Southeast. “At Publix, we reject racism and discrimination of any kind.”
Desamours told WBBH that the statement means nothing to him after what happened.
“They say they stand for justice against racism and inequality but as soon as i stand up against something in their uniform, they don’t like it,” said Desamours. “Their words don’t stand behind their actions.
“We’re at a tipping point in America. Change has to come now and I’m happy that I’m part of the generation that brings the change,” the teen added. On Tuesday, he wrote on Twitter: “No place is a bad place to stand up for what’s fundamentally right!”
He said he hasn’t officially submitted his resignation, but plans to soon.
Starbucks, after receiving criticism for a similar policy that banned BLM messaging on employees’ clothes, reversed course last week. In a statement, the coffee giant said it would send specially-designed Black Lives Matter shirts to stores and allow employees to “wear their BLM pin or t-shirt in support of their community and humanity” before the shirts arrive.