Will Manuel was quoted in an article on Law.com that discussed a 2019 case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to religious discrimination claims. The matter involved two Kroger employees who were fired after refusing to wear an apron as part of the store uniform that included a heart logo the employees believed to be promoting the LGBTQ+ community.
The multi-colored heart logo allegedly symbolized Kroger’s “Our Promise” to friendliness and customer service; however, the employees believed the symbol promoted LGBTQ equality in conflict with their religious beliefs.
Kroger agreed to settle the case after U.S. Judge Lee Rudofsky of the Eastern District of Arkansas denied Kroger’s motion for summary judgment on the religious discrimination claim, ruling that it should advance to trial. Rudofsky ruled that whether or not the court thinks the multi-colored heart could reasonably be confused with a pro-LGBTQ symbol, a rational juror could think so.
Manuel said the outcome of the litigation provides legal lessons for other companies.
“This case is proof that you never know how a phrase or a symbol might strike the public,” Manuel said. “Although you can’t vet every statement or picture you plan to use, it may be worth running a campaign through a focus group before making it public.”
The original article, “Inside Track: Why a New Logo Gave Kroger Legal Heartburn,” was published on Law.com on December 29, 2022. (login required)