Kroger to pay $180K in lawsuit over workers who objected to rainbow apron

File photo of a Kroger store. The Cincinnati-based retailer operates nearly 2,800 supermarkets in 35 states.
File photo of a Kroger store. The Cincinnati-based retailer operates nearly 2,800 supermarkets in 35 states.

Kroger is paying $180,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit that was filed after two Arkansas workers were fired for refusing to wear new company aprons with a rainbow logo they believed supported the LGBTQ community.

Kroger denied their "Our Promise" rainbow symbol indicated support for the LGBTQ community in the case on behalf of the former employees that worked at a store in Conway, Arkansas.

Workers at the store got the new uniforms in April 2019 that included a rainbow heart embroidered on the top left portion of the bib, according to court documents.

Both of the workers believe the "literal interpretation of the Bible," held "religious belief that homosexuality is a sin" and "sincerely believed the apron violated (their) religious beliefs," according to the lawsuit.

One employee asked to wear their nametag over the logo. Another asked for a different apron. Both employees were fired within two months.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2020 on their behalf in U.S. District Court. As part of the settlement, announced Thursday, Kroger has also agreed to develop a religious accommodation policy that will provide guidelines for workers seeking consideration for their beliefs. The company will also provide training to adhere to the policy.

In a statement on Monday, Cincinnati-basedKroger didn't address the lawsuit but expressed its continued support for diversity, adding it was core to the company's values of "Honesty and Integrity, Diversity and Respect, Safety and Inclusion."

“We also know that the more diverse we are and the more we learn from each other, the stronger we grow,” Kroger said.

Besides Kroger stores, the grocer operates several regional supermarket chains in 35 states, including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Mariano's, Fry's, Smith's, King Soopers, QFC and others. The company has nearly 2,800 stores and employs 420,000 workers.

In October, the supermarket announced a $25 billion acquisition plan to acquire supermarket rival Albertsons that would give it more than 4,500 stores in 48 states. The plan is subject to regulatory approval.

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This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Kroger rainbow patch case: Settlement announced