Employees at Publix supermarkets will only be permitted to wear approved facial coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic -- and that doesn’t include masks that express support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Our uniform policy does not permit non-Publix messaging on clothing or accessories,” a spokesperson said Wednesday.
The policy comes as protests continue to sprout across the nation following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a police officer in late May. The tragic police killing reenergized the Black Lives Matter movement, a sweeping campaign that aims to end police brutality and systemic racism.
While Publix has spoken out about racial discrimination and injustice -- the company has vowed to make a $1 million contribution to the National Urban League -- several social media users have criticized the Lakeland-based grocery chain for not allowing employees to showcase their support for the growing BLM movement.
Eighteen-year-old Quinton Desamours, a former Publix employee, told the Fort Myers News-Press that he quit after his manager asked him to remove his BLM face mask.
“He said I was putting myself and the rest of the employees in danger and he couldn’t have me out on the floor with that mask on,” Desamours told the newspaper.
Other social media users have also expressed outrage at Publix’s apparent dismissal of the BLM movement, promising to boycott the store if changes aren’t made.
The @PublixHelps Twitter account has been responding to mounting criticisms by repeating the company’s official statement, which reads as follows:
“At Publix, we reject racism and believe diversity makes our company - and our community - better. 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. Visit publix.com/diversity to read more about our commitment to our associates, customers and communities.
As additional background, in April, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their recommendations to include the use of face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Due to this recommendation, and to ensure the safety of our associates and customers, we are requiring all associates to wear face coverings. Approved face coverings include medical/surgical masks, dust masks, and Publix-issued, Publix-branded or solid color face coverings.”
Starbucks has also faced scrutiny in recent weeks after issuing a similar policy to Publix’s. The coffee giant reversed course after an internal memo was leaked reminding employees not to wear any Black Lives Matter-related attire or symbols.
Starbucks baristas are now allowed to wear Black Lives Matter apparel and pins, and the company issued a statement saying they stand in solidarity with the Black community.