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Available Expert - Whole Foods bans employees from wearing poppies

Friday, November 6, 2020

Smith School of Business expert Monica LaBarge is available to comment on the decision by national grocery chain Whole Foods to bann its employees from wearing the symbol of remembrance while on the job.U.S.-based Whole Foods Market says poppies aren't allowed under its recently updated uniform policy, which affects employees at its 14 locations across Canada. Dr. LaBarge can speak to the following points:

“It appears that Whole Foods has created a policy related to expressing ‘political’ views, probably as a consequence of the Black Lives Matter movements that exploded over the summer, and potentially out of a desire to limit political debates between its employees, or between its employees and customers. That seems like a reasonable action; the issue seems that it has not adequately explained the policy to employees, who are confused about not being able to visibly demonstrate their support for veterans. All in all, the poppy and that support is innocuous and broadly well-accepted in Canadian society,” says Dr. LaBarge.

“Increasingly brands are taking overtly political stances on important social issues, and consumers are coming to expect that. If they decide to hold the line on individual employees demonstrating their ‘political’ views (a very generous description of the act of wearing a poppy), then it would be appropriate for the stores to determine how they can visibly, for employees and customers alike, demonstrate their support for veterans around the holiday – beyond donating money, which is great, but not really the point here,” says Dr. LaBarge

“in Canada, Remembrance Day is primarily about honouring veterans who have given their lives for our country, particularly in the two World Wars; it’s really not about promoting the military or force, which conceivably might be the only “political” aspect of the holiday. In particular this year, veterans groups are concerned that the lack of ability to sell poppies face-to-face may diminish revenues for veterans who benefit from the program. Thus, making more of an effort, rather than banning actions by employees, would be warranted. says Dr. LaBarge.

To arrange an interview, please contact communications officer Anne Craig (613-533-2877 or anne.craig@queensu.ca) or Julie Brown (julie.brown@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.


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