Taco Bell apologizes after worker fired for Black Lives Matter mask

A Facebook post generated a social media firestorm this week, the most recent social media backlash over a restaurant’s uniform decision.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Taco Bell on Thursday said it has apologized to a worker in Youngstown, Ohio, who was fired after wearing a Black Lives Matter mask to work, after a Facebook post on the incident led to a social media backlash this week.

Denzel Skinner, an employee at the location, posted a video on Facebook last week showing him getting fired for wearing the mask, even though company policy says workers can wear any type of mask they want.

A manager off-camera in the video tells Skinner that he “can’t bring politics into the building” and that “it’s a company thing” that he couldn’t wear the mask.

The video took on a new live on Thursday after it was shared on Twitter, prompting the hashtag #RIPTacoBell to trend on the social media platform.

“This is crazy, all because I have a Black Lives Matter mask on, I’m losing my job,” Skinner says in the video. “They clearly say we can wear any type of mask.”

In an emailed statement, Taco Bell said company policies do not prohibit workers from wearing Black Lives Matter masks and that the company was working to clarify its policies.

“We believe Black Lives Matter,” Taco Bell said. “We were disappointed to learn about the incident that took place in Youngstown, Ohio. We take this very seriously. We have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue.”

The company said that its chief people officer, along with the chief diversity and inclusion officer for parent company Yum Brands, James Fripp, both spoke with Skinner to apologize and discuss the situation.

“Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe,” Taco Bell said. “While our policies at restaurants do not prohibit team members from wearing Black Lives Matter masks, we are working to clarify our mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.”

It’s the second major social media blowup over workers’ desire to wear Black Lives Matter logos on their uniforms.

Last week, Starbucks told employees they could wear a Black Lives Matter pin or t-shirt while the company works to make available its own Black Lives Matter shirts, designed by employees.

That decision followed reports that the company told workers that they could not wear Black Lives Matter shirts or pins while on the job.

“You told us you need a way to express yourself at work,” Roz Brewer, Rossann Williams and Zing Shaw, Starbucks chief operating officer, president of U.S. retail and global chief inclusion and diversity officer, respectively, said in a letter to employees. “We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change.”

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month highlighted issues of systemic racism throughout society and spawned protests around that world that continue to this day.

A majority of Americans across racial lines support Black Lives Matter by a large margin, according to a recent Pew survey.

Many companies, including Starbucks and Taco Bell and many others, voiced vocal support for the movement on social media—which critics of the uniform decisions pointed to in calls to boycott both chains.  

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