Whole Foods employee who blew whistle on poppy ban 'in disbelief' over reaction

·2 min read

The Whole Foods Market employee who first told CBC about a company policy prohibiting workers from wearing poppies says she never dreamed the issue would garner so much attention — or prompt such swift action.

Within hours of CBC reporting the story last Friday, Canadian politicians including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the U.S.-based company's move, with Ontario Premier Doug Ford vowing to introduce legislation outlawing the policy.

"I was just sitting there in disbelief, but also ... [I was] super happy," the employee told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday. "I think I was squealing quite a bit."

CBC News has agreed not to name her as she's still concerned about reprisals from her employer.

After initially refusing to back down, Whole Foods reversed the policy later on Friday, explaining that its new dress code wasn't designed to single out the symbol of remembrance, and that employees are now welcome to wear poppies at work.

'They've done so much for our country'

The employee told CBC the poppy was initially prohibited because it would be seen as "supporting a cause." She said it was "scary" to come forward with her complaint, but felt it was necessary.

"It's the time of year. It's our one week that we get to celebrate and to honour our veterans and even our still active [military] members," she said. "They've done so much for our country."

The employee said members of her own family have served in the military, but added she'd feel the same way even without that personal connection.

"It's unthinkable that we would be told we're not allowed to wear the main symbol that says, 'I recognize you, I see you and I thank you for everything that you've done.'"

While she said she was in "pure shock" when she first learned the poppy wouldn't be allowed on uniforms, she said that emotion was soon replaced by "pure happiness" when someone at work came around with a poppy box in hand.

Even customers were bringing up the ban and subsequent reversal, she said.

"Everyone was just really happy that ... it got fixed," she said. "And so quickly, of course."