LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The federal agency that oversees employment discrimination announced a settlement Thursday between the Kroger grocery chain and two workers at a Conway store.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that Kroger Limited Partnership I, a subsidiary of Kroger, will pay $180,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit.
The suit was filed on behalf of two former employees of the Conway location who claimed they were disciplined and then fired in 2020 for refusing to wear a work uniform apron with a heart emblem on its bib. The employees claimed the multicolored emblem, part of Kroger’s “Our Promise” campaign, endorsed LGBTQ+ values and that wearing it violated their religious beliefs.
Kroger has denied these allegations, and the EEOC suit filed in June of 2022 noted that the store attempted on multiple occasions to explain to the workers that the emblem “had no relation to the LGBTQ community whatsoever.”
As part of the settlement, Kroger agreed to create a religious accommodation policy and provide training to store management.
“The EEOC commends Kroger on its decision to create a policy describing the process for requesting a religious accommodation,” EEOC regional attorney Faye A. Williams said. “This policy will provide guidelines for requesting religious accommodation. The parties in the case worked in good faith to resolve this matter, and the Commission is pleased with the resolution.”
At the time of the 2020 lawsuit, Kroger was the largest supermarket by revenue in the United States and the second largest retailer. It currently operates 2,800 stores in 35 states.
On Oct. 14, Kroger bid $34.10 a share, roughly $20 billion, for Albertsons, owner of the Safeway grocery chain. The proposed merger would better position the company to compete with Walmart, Amazon and other major players in the grocery business. If approved by regulators, the merger would go into effect in 2024.