Home Depot worker told to remove BLM pin after racist incident was reported, feds say

A Home Depot employee voiced concerns over recent vandalism of the store’s Black History Month display — then was told to remove a Black Lives Matter pin from their uniform, federal officials said.

In a 45-page report released Feb. 21, the National Labor Relations Board said the Home Depot in Minnesota violated labor laws.

“I can tell you we disagree with the NLRB’s decision,” a spokesperson for Home Depot said in a statement to McClatchy News. “The Home Depot is fully committed to diversity and respect for all people. We don’t tolerate any kind of workplace harassment or discrimination.”

Federal officials said asking the employee to remove the pin from their company apron violated the National Labor Relations Act’s “protection of concerted activities for mutual aid and protection includes efforts by employees to protest and redress racial discrimination in the workplace.”

‘Breaks my heart’

In February 2021, Home Depot’s displays for Black History Month were vandalized twice, officials reported.

Management notified workers of the incident, but some employees felt the “response to the racist vandalism was lacking and that more should be done,” officials said in the report.

One employee, Antonio Morales, who uses they and them pronouns, sent an email saying they wanted to open up a discussion about the issue, believing “these actions are part of a very serious underlying issue that needs to be a store wide discussion.”

The next day, management called in Morales for a meeting to discuss the email. The store manager said he agreed with Morales, but during the meeting pointed out Morales’ BLM initials pin on their Home Depot apron.

Morales had been wearing the pin without issue for the last five months, including in meetings with supervisors, officials said.

The manager told Morales the pin violated the Home Depot dress code and said if he allowed a BLM pin, he would also have to allow a swastika, officials said.

Morales said it’s impossible to compare the two.

The manager suggested an All Lives Matter pin might be more appropriate, officials said.

The next day, Morales had another meeting to discuss the recent incidents.

Part of the meeting was dedicated to chronicling ongoing events in which another worker “subjected customers and employees of color, including Morales, to racially discriminatory behavior,” officials said.

The district manager also raised the issue of Morales’ pin and reiterated she couldn’t allow them to wear it.

“I know that, and I am willing to be fired over this,” Morales said, according to a transcript of the conversation shared in the report.

“I’m not going to fire you over that,” the district manager said, according to officials. “That’s not how that’s going to work. You haven’t done anything wrong, okay. Quite honestly, there’s a lot of things that have not been taken care of for you that have put you in a position where I know you don’t feel respected when you come to work, and that’s what breaks my heart.”

“Breaks mine, too,” Morales said.

They refused to remove the pin, and Morales resigned shortly after, officials said.


Three years later, the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Home Depot to rehire Morales and give them back pay.

Labor officials argued that pins worn by Morales and other employees constituted “concerted protests of racially discriminatory working conditions.”

Ultimately, officials said Home Depot couldn’t prove that its interest in prohibiting employees from wearing the pins was greater than the employees’ right to wear it.

New Brighton is part of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, about 10 miles northeast of downtown Minneapolis.

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