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Whole Foods facing backlash for not letting employees wear poppies at work

Whole Foods confirms that no additions are allowed to its uniform, and the prohibition of poppies has drawn the ire of political leaders at all levels.
Whole Foods Market's sign on its Lansdowne Park location. Photo/Google Maps

UPDATE, Friday, November 6, 3:22 p.m.: Whole Foods has reversed its decision, and will now allow poppies to be worn by its employees.


UPDATE, Friday, November 6, 10:46 a.m.: Premier Doug Ford now says his government will be introducing legislation that prohibits any employer from banning their staff from wearing a poppy during Remembrance Week.


A U.S.-based supermarket chain is confirming that poppies are not allowed to be worn by its employees while on the job, after an employee claimed to have been instructed to remove the symbol of remembrance from their uniform.

A person who contacted 1310 NEWS, claiming to be an employee of Whole Foods' Lansdowne Park location, said that they had been instructed to not wear a poppy while working, as it did not conform with the store's recently updated dress code.

Whole Foods has since explained that its employee uniform consists of a standard apron, coat or vest (depending on the employee's position), a Whole Foods Market hat and an issued name badge. The company says it asks that all of its employees comply with the dress code policy and standard uniform.

"Whole Foods Market honours the men and women who have and continue to bravely serve their country. We support Remembrance Day in all of our Canadian stores by observing a moment of silence on November 11th and by donating to the Legion's Poppy Campaign," a Whole Foods spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to 1310 NEWS. "With the exception of those items required by law, our dress code policy prohibits any additions to our standard uniform."

The prohibition of poppies has drawn the ire of political leaders at all levels.

"One of the most ridiculous decisions made by a company in recent memory," Mayor Jim Watson tweeted, in reply to a tweet about the issue. "Please reverse this idiotic decision and apologize to our veterans for your insensitivity."

"It's disgusting and disgraceful that @WholeFoods has banned poppies for their employees," Premier Doug Ford wrote on Twitter. "We will always stand with our veterans. Whole Foods should apologize and immediately reverse this decision."

Federal Conservative leader Erin O'Toole tweeted a video, condemning the company's decision.

"The freedom they have to be that stupid was granted by the sacrifice by thousands of Canadians, and that's why we show respect with the poppy," said O'Toole.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," tweeted Lawrence MacAulay, the federal veterans affairs minister. "[T]he poppy is an important symbol of remembrance, and it's more important than ever that everyone support the @RoyalCdnLegion's Poppy Campaign this year."

In its e-mailed statement, Whole Foods did not answer a question about the reason behind its uniform policy.

Whole Foods has 14 locations across Canada.

Jason White

About the Author: Jason White

Jason is an award-winning reporter at CityNews Ottawa. He brings about two decades of experience in news, with stops in Halifax and Toronto.
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