Publix says its employees cannot wear Black Lives Matter gear

An employee said he was asked to go home for displaying ‘BLM’ on his required protective mask

An 18-year-old Florida Publix employee said he was sent home for wearing a face mask with the letters “BLM” on it, representing Black Lives Matter. A Publix spokesperson said it stands behind its decision to ensure a “welcoming work and shopping environment.”

Quinton Desamours told NBC 2 in Florida that he was “speechless” after his assistant manager pulled him aside to discuss his face mask, which is required for employees in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

“He told me the company hasn’t issued a statement and that he doesn’t know if they’re pro or con on the issue, and that I am endangering myself and everyone who worked there,” Desamours said.

Publix has a policy that prohibits non-Publix messaging on uniforms, so spokeswoman Maria Brous explained to NBC News that Desamours was violating that policy.

“At Publix, we reject racism and believe diversity makes our company — and our community — better,” Brous said. “Our focus remains on ensuring a welcoming work and shopping environment for all associates and customers. Our uniform policy does not permit non-Publix messaging on clothing or accessories.”

The policy stance became known to the public when Desamours tweeted about it June 6.

"Today @Publix sent me, a publix employee home for having "BLM" written on my mask. The assistant store manager told me he doesn't know if the company is "Pro or Con". I will no longer be working for publix. Stand for something or you'll fall for anything!"

A few days later, he tweeted that a district manager apologized.

“They also said they don’t want to be apart of political views. #Black Lives Matter is not political,” the teen wrote. “The movement is all about Equality.”

Publix has more than 1,200 stores across the country, primarily located in the Southeast. After the public outing of the policy, the company’s CEO said he wanted to make sure every associate could hear the company’s call for “compassion and empathy.”

“Today, it’s evident that our support and compassion are required on an even deeper level,” CEO Todd Jones wrote in the letter, pledging to contribute $1 million to National Urban League affiliates across the Southeast. “At Publix, we reject racism and discrimination of any kind.”

Despite that contribution, Desamours told the local NBC news affiliate the grocer’s stance on BLM gear is still unacceptable.

“They say they stand for justice against racism and inequality but as soon as I stand up against something in their uniform, they don’t like it,” said Desamours. “Their words don’t stand behind their actions.”