One of my favorite childhood memories was aging up from the standard, pre-school box of 8 crayons to the post-K 24-pack and then finally once I proved myself old enough to be trusted the gigantic 48-count treasure chest. Wow! Those colors powered the artistic dreams of my youth.  So, the very last thing I thought when I flipped the top of those boxes was that I was staring at a potential symbol of our country’s oppression of religious freedom. At least that is what I thought until I read a new EEOC decision.

It seems that Kroger’s supermarkets had the corporate audacity to fire two employees who refused to wear the Kroger smocks. The two claimed that the uniforms portrayed them as advocating the “sin” of homosexuality and, therefore, violated their religious freedom to condemn all things gay. The Kroger aprons have a blue heart insignia wrapped in succeeding layers of yellow, red, and light blue. (Or as any owner of at least a 48-count box of Crayolas might say an Indigo heart with borders of Row Sienna, Burnt Orange, and Ceruleum.)

When EEOC found out about this corporate-wide discriminatory crusade to promote gay stuff in the produce isle and beyond being inflicted upon innocent, god-fearing churchgoers, it responded quickly.  After all, those two knew for certain that their deity never intended homosexuality to be among his/her approved creations.  The full force of its agency was put on Kroger to make America’s pews safe for harboring anything from disapproval to revulsion and even hatred of “the gays.” Moreover, this odium need not be something officially shared by their church or even their local congregation. EEOC got each employee about $80,000 in back pay.

EEOC takes the position a belief held by a single person is protected by our civil rights laws if s/he claims it is based in their view of their religion.  And to top off its protective walls around religion EEOC permits objectors to claim religious freedom even if the object that is triggering their objections is not what they think it is or simply reminds them of something that offends them religiously. The Kroger insignia, which is missing several of the standard LGBTQ flag colors, is no more a symbol of the LGBTQ rainbow than a Skittles package.

The EEOC stance leaves me wondering whether a company that has black in its uniform is vulnerable to charges of forcing employees to signal support for the pagan occult tenets of Wicca?  How about green, which instantly brings to mind St. Patrick and his utter contempt of snakes. Does not that constitute a hostile environment for those members of churches whose services involve snake handling? (Listen closely U.S. Army to that warning about green.)  And the execs at Red Devil Products, Inc. might as well shutter operations now and start sending checks to their religiously oppressed employees until the cash runs out.

Finally, and most absurdly, can federal employees now demand that the American flag be removed from offices because they personally believe that the 50 stars could be interpreted by others as their support for Judism (Star of David), Christianity (Star of Bethlehem), or even Merlin’s Witchcraft Star? Those 50 stars are much more similar to any of those religious stars than the Kroger four-color heart is to the LGBTQ flag.

This EEOC decision arguably (and in our opinion foolishly) creates a near foolproof option for employees wishing to leave an employer to claim religious oppression if an accommodation is not granted, quit under alleged duress when the company refuses to change the colors of a uniform, sign, delivery truck, or stationery, and then let EEOC go get them a nice severance check. No one in labor or management wants to see that worm hole open much less us Crayola fans. We must now live in fear of the day that it announces a recall of our treasured kaleidoscopic boxes to be replaced by a set of only clear crayons in order to protect the stockholders from potential bankruptcy. What a sad world that would be.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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