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Food Lion changes policy after N.C. employee resigns over patriotic face mask

Grocery store chain Food Lion has changed its policy regarding uniform requirements after the...
Grocery store chain Food Lion has changed its policy regarding uniform requirements after the story of one employee’s resignation went viral.(Source: WECT)
Published: Sep. 5, 2020 at 10:49 AM EDT
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CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Grocery store chain Food Lion has changed its policy regarding uniform requirements after the story of one employee’s resignation went viral, WECT reported.

Gary Dean, 69, wore a face covering that depicted the American flag as he worked his job at the Food Lion located in Havelock, North Carolina. Dean was informed by his manager that someone offended by the image and that he was no longer allowed to wear the face covering at work.

Dean, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, chose to resign from his position, saying he felt the corporate decision went against his personal values.

Food Lion’s original statement in response to the decision was as follows:

“At Food Lion, we have great respect for the American flag. Like many other organizations, we also have policies that guide the attire and conduct of associates in the workplace. As part of our effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the well-being of our associates and customers, we’ve required associates to either wear reusable face masks provided by Food Lion or choose to wear a different face covering while working. However, all face coverings must adhere to standards set by the company and communicated to each of our more than 77,000 associates. The policy prohibits associates from wearing clothing with writing, insignia or symbols. The dress code is meant to ensure a consistent and professional representation of our associates inside of our stores.”

However, in less than a week of the story gaining national traction, the company has reversed course. In a updated statement, the company is said to have listened to a number of their employees and customers before coming to a conclusion on the matter. News of the change in policy went public Sunday morning in a tweet from the Food Lion Twitter account.

Additionally, Food Lion released this extended statement on their corporate uniform policy moving forward:

“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.”

There’s no word yet on whether or not Gary Dean will return to work at his former Food Lion location.

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