Skip to main content


  1. Home

News & Publications


Region 19-Seattle Wins Administrative Law Judge Decision Finding Kroger Grocery Stores Unlawfully Discriminated Against Workers Wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ Pins and Masks

Office of Public Affairs

On May 3, 2023, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone found that Kroger Company Subsidiaries Fred Meyer Stores, Inc. (Fred Meyer) and Quality Food Centers, Inc. (QFC) violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from wearing Black Lives Matter (BLM) pins and masks and by sending home several workers for wearing BLM insignia after refusing to remove it.

The dispute began in the summer of 2020 when employees at several Fred Meyer and QFC stores in Washington State began wearing BLM pins and face masks. Although employees had worn, without consequence, other pins and face masks with LGBTQ+ messages, pronouns, inspirational messages, and sports team insignia, Fred Meyer and QFC supervisors ordered employees to remove the BLM pins and masks and sent home workers who refused to do so.

Region 19 of the NLRB issued a complaint alleging that the employers’ conduct violated the National Labor Relations Act under both Section 8(a)(1), based on interference with protected activity, and under Section 8(a)(5) by its failure to bargain with the union representing the workers—United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21. After reviewing testimony and evidence presented in a hearing, Judge Anzalone agreed.

Judge Anzalone found that the employees’ wearing of the insignia was in support of their Black coworkers, both at their own workplace and elsewhere, “who do not check their skin color at the door when they start their shifts.” Thus, it constituted mutual aid and protection and was protected activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

“I find that, by collectively displaying the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message on their work uniforms, the employees in this case acted to advance their interest—as employees—to an affirmatively anti-racist, pro-civil rights, and pro-justice workplace,” said Judge Anzalone.

Judge Anzalone ordered Fred Meyer and QFC to revise and rescind their dress code polices and all rules prohibiting the display of protected insignia and advise its employees in writing that the rules have been revised or rescinded. She also ordered the employers to make whole those employees who were unlawfully sent home pursuant to unlawful rules, and for all financial harms suffered as a result of the employers’ unfair labor practices. Finally, she ordered the employers to physically and electronically post a notice with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

“As Judge Anzalone acknowledged, workers have the right to advocate collectively for a more equitable workplace—and it is unlawful for employers to prohibit them from doing so or retaliate against them for doing so,” said NLRB Region 19 Region Director Ronald Hooks. “I’m proud of Region 19 staff for diligently pursuing this issue and for winning strong remedies for the victims of unlawful actions.”

Established in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects employees, employers, and unions from unfair labor practices and protects the right of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve wages, benefits and working conditions. The NLRB conducts hundreds of workplace elections and investigates thousands of unfair labor practice charges each year. Region 19 serves areas in Alaska, Montana, Oregon, and Washington from its Regional Office in Seattle and Subregional Office in Portland.