Grocery Chain Reverses Course, Allows Employees to Wear Patriotic Face Masks

A grocery store chain reversed its uniform policy after one of its employees quit his job because his manager told him he couldn't wear an American flag face mask to work.

Food Lion, a supermarket chain in headquartered in North Carolina with over 1,000 stores in 10 states, posted a statement to its Twitter account Saturday morning maintaining that it "deeply respects the American flag."

"We listened to our associates and customers about our uniform policy. We require that associates wear masks without writing, insignia or symbols," the statement read. "We will allow associates to wear masks with the American flag that meet this standard."

Gary Dean, 69, worked at a Food Lion store in Havelock, North Carolina. The U.S. Air Force veteran showed up to his job Tuesday wearing a face covering with the American flag printed on it, a clothing item he told WCTI-TV he's been wearing at work for months, without any issue.

But a manger told him that someone was offended by the American flag's image, informing Dean that he could no longer wear the mask to work. Dean felt that doing so would be against his values.

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"As a veteran, my dad being a World War II hero, my best friend killed in Vietnam, out of respect for them I can't just say, 'No, I'll take my flag and put it in my pocket,'" Dean told WCTI-TV. "I had to quit, out of principle."

In a statement issued by Food Lion following news of Dean's resignation, the company repeated that they "have great respect for the American flag."

"However, all face coverings must adhere to standards set by the company and communicated to each of our more than 77,000 associates," according to the statement. "The policy prohibits associates from wearing clothing with writing, insignia or symbols."

Dean told WCTI-TV he disagreed with the company's policy. "Why would anybody for any reason be offended by the American flag, the stars and stripes?" he asked.

American flag mask
A man wearing an American flag mask is seen near Chelsea Piers as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 01, 2020 in New York City. A grocery store chain reversed its uniform policy September 4 after one of its employees quit their job because his manager told him he couldn’t wear his American flag face mask to work. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Days later, it appears Food Lion has changed its company policy. According to a statement released on Facebook late Friday evening, while employees still cannot wear clothing with other writing, insignia or symbols, the American flag is an exception to this rule.

"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," an extended statement released by the company read. "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."

It is unclear whether Dean would return to his job at the Havelock grocery store, WECT reported.

Newsweek contacted Food Lion for further comment, but did not hear back in time for publication.

Grocery Chain Reverses Course, Allows Employees to Wear Patriotic Face Masks | News