Food Lion updates their dress code policy to allow employees to wear masks depicting American flag

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 5:32 PM EDT
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UPDATE (Sept 5.)

Multiple employees quit their job at Food Lion stores in Virginia and North Carolina after being asked to remove masks that were patriotic. On Saturday, Food Lion updated their dress code policy to allow masks depicting the American Flag.

“Food Lion has the utmost respect for the American flag and has a proud, long history of partnering with and supporting military organizations and communities. Over the past few days, we have been listening to our associates and customers about Food Lion’s mask policy as part of our uniform standards. As COVID-19 spread, Food Lion worked to protect its associates by making masks available to be worn as part of their uniform. While we continue to maintain our uniform standards requiring associates to wear masks without writing, insignia or symbols, we will allow associates to wear masks with the American flag that meet this standard. We appreciate and thank our more than 77,0000 associates who are working hard every day to safely nourish our neighbors in the towns and cities we serve.”

Two Augusta County women decided to quit their jobs at a Food Lion in Augusta County after being told to change their face masks that they considered to be patriotic.

"We were raised where you stand for the flag and respect it and everything that comes with it because we have people fighting for it everyday," Haili Halterman said.

Halterman worked for the grocery store chain in the Valley.

The chain requires all employees to wear a mask while working.

"We could wear whatever we wanted as long as it didn't have nasty words or pictures on it," Halterman said.

But Halterman claims that story changed a few weeks ago.

She said she came to work wearing a mask with stars and stripes that was red, white and blue.

Store managers allegedly told her the mask was considered offensive and against policy.

"They said you can either change your mask or go home, and I said well it looks like I'm going home because I'm not taking my mask off," Halterman said. "I told them I would wear a different one another shift."

Halterman said she was not shown any paperwork or written rules about the policy and decided she would resign.

“For me, it was heartbreaking, and I couldn’t stay in a company that would consider the flag offensive when it’s what gives every American their rights,” Halterman said.

Halterman was not the only employee who had an experience like this.

Olivia Bower said she also resigned after being told she could not wear a mask that depicted a black and white flag with the words, "America Strong" on it.

“Me and Haili are the voices that some people need to hear to stand up for what you believe in, and that it’s OK to receive negative because you know the good that you’ve done,” Bower said.

According to flag code, it is considered disrespectful to wear the flag itself as an article of clothing.

A local historian said these two masks don't fall into that category.

“It’s kind of show of patriotism that we’re excited about and support our country through hard times and good times and just sort of the vision of what America could be,” Nancy Sorrells, President of the Augusta County Historic Society said.

Sorrells also said the American flag is not something that should be politicized.

“It’s a symbol of unity and celebration of our neighbors in our community and our history and how we’re always striving for a vision of a ‘more perfect union,’” Sorrells said. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’ve made a lot of strides.”

Both of the girls said they loved their job and enjoyed working there, but they felt they couldn't go against their morals.

WHSV did reach out to Food Lion for comment regarding their dress code and mask policy and the following was their response via email:

“We are committed to taking every precaution possible to protect the health and well-being of our associates and customers. To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and well-being of our communities, all associates have to wear face coverings. Associates can wear masks or face shields provided by Food Lion or they can choose homemade face coverings. All face coverings must adhere to standards set in our dress code policy.

Communications about our mask and dress code policy were shared with all Food Lion associates in late May.

There are a number of policies that guide Food Lion associate attire and conduct in the workplace, including our dress code and solicitation policies, among others. We do not provide our policies or internal communications to non Food-Lion employees.”

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