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Whataburger employee says wearing Black Lives Matter mask got her fired

Lucas Manfredi
·4 mins read

A former Whataburger employee in Fort Worth, Texas, has filed a discrimination complaint against the company Wednesday after she says she was fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter Mask, according to a report by the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.

In a complaint to the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, Ma’Kiya Congious, 19, alleged that she was let go from the company after a White customer threatened to call Whataburger’s corporate office about her Black Lives Matter mask, which led her managers to fire her and call the police on her, according to the Star-Telegram.

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In her complaint, Congious said she wore the mask on July 31 without encountering an issue and returned on Aug. 3 with the mask when the White customer complained. A week later, she said managers told employees they had to wear masks with “no opinions whosoever on it,” sparking an argument between Congious and management.

Congious captured a video of her altercation with managers, which was obtained by the Star-Telegram, in which one supervisor said, “You’re entitled to your personal opinions, that’s fine. But at Whataburger we don’t want to portray them because some people may be offended. This is a big business ... Whataburger doesn’t want to get into anything political because we’re just hamburgers and fries.”

Congious then asked the managers how she could request two weeks’ notice, to which a manager responded, “You want to put your two weeks notice in? We accept it and you don’t have to come back at all.”

According to the Telegram, Congious said she hadn’t made up her mind about putting in her two weeks’ notice and was only asking about her options. After pressing the manager on what they meant, she said they called the police on her, prompting her to leave the Whataburger.

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Congious defended wearing the mask at work during a press conference held Wednesday with her lawyer Jason C.N. Smith.

“It’s not a political thing,” she said. “It’s just a statement that says ‘Black Lives Matter’ because we do matter.”

Congious is calling on the public to boycott the restaurant for 90 days to see if the restaurant chain is "willing to demonstrate that "Black Lives Matter" and has called on the company's CEO to post "Black Lives Matter to Whataburger” on social media.

She is also requesting that Whataburger allow Black Lives Matter face masks and give implicit bias training for all current Whataburger managers at all levels as well as any new hire managers to inform them how to identify and stop discrimination. In addition, she is asking the company to recognize Juneteenth at its restaurants.

Congious’ attorney Jason Smith said the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division has 180 days to investigate the case, while Whataburger has 30 days to respond to the complaint. If the state doesn’t make a finding, Congious can get a right to sue letter.

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Congious "voluntarily resigned due to a disagreement over our company uniform policy" and was paid for her two weeks she was scheduled to work, Whataburger said in an August statement

According to Whataburger, company policy prohibits clothing, including face masks, with non-Whataburger messaging, including social, political, religious, and sports-oriented statements. Employees are also provided company-issued face masks, according to the company.

"If we allow any non-Whataburger slogans as part of our uniforms, we have to allow all slogans. This could create tension and conflict among our employees and our customers," Whataburger said. "It is our job as a responsible brand to proactively keep our employees and customers safe. Our employees, customers, and the communities we serve are the heart of who we are, and we hope to always demonstrate the kindness and respect we stand for at Whataburger."

The restaurant chain said it "believes in racial equality" and is proud to employ a "very diverse and inclusive workforce" made up of 46,000 employees.

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Congious is the latest employee to take action against their employer for prohibiting Black Lives Matter face masks at work.

A discrimination lawsuit was filed by a group of Whole Foods employees in July after several said they were sent home for refusing to take off their Black Lives Matter face masks.

Meanwhile, Starbucks chose to adjust its dress code in June to allow Black Lives Matter T-shirts and pins after complaints that it prohibited employees from wearing them amid nationwide racial justice protests.

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