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Taco Bell Is Working to Clarify Its Mask Policy After an Employee Was Fired for Wearing a Black Lives Matter Mask

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  • A Taco Bell employee live-streamed an argument with his boss, who fired him for refusing to take off his Black Lives Matter face mask last Monday, saying he could not bring “politics” into the building under company policy. 
  • Taco Bell told news outlets last week that it was disappointed to hear about the incident and was considering revising uniform requirements to address recent concerns. 
  • However, the company has been silent on social media and after a shorter version of the stream viral, #RIPTaco Bell and #TacoBellIsOverParty began trending on Twitter. 
  • Taco Bell then told media outlets Thursday that it apologized to the former employee and is working to clarify its mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.

The Viral Video

#RIPTacoBell and #TacoBellIsOverParty were trending on Twitter early Thursday after a video went viral of an employee being fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask.

That now-former employee is a man in Ohio by the name of Denzel Skinner, who live-streamed the argument with his manager on Facebook last Monday. Skinner’s live-stream is over 30 minutes long, but a shorter edit that’s just under a minute has been shared across Twitter. 

Skinner also later spoke to local news station WKBN, where he explained the lead up to his stream. He told the station that he wore the mask because the surgical ones provided to employees were inadequate in the hot restaurant. He said the store’s air conditioning system recently broke, making it harder to breathe with the surgical masks, so he switched to his more comfortable Black Lives Matter mask.

But when his manager spotted it and told him to take it off, he refused and walked out. He said he was then told that if he walked out of the restaurant, he would lose his job, and he did. That’s when the now-viral video begins. 

“You just fired me because I got a Black Lives Matter on,” he says as the edited video begins. “You just told me I had to go home because I have a Black…” 

“You told me you weren’t going to take it off,” his boss interjects off camera. 

Skinner continues: “I’m not. I’m not. Because I’m standing up for what’s right. I’m not taking it off.”

Skinner explains that someone named Tammy, presumably another higher-ranking colleague, said employees could wear whatever mask they wanted. 

“No she did not. She said it had to be plain. You can’t bring politics into the building,” the manager responds. 

He replies, “Bro, I’m not bringing politics in, this is what I’m standing for. Like how is this considered politics?” 

“How is it not Denzel?” she replies. He then reaffirms that he will not remove his mask and she says, “Ok, well then there’s nothing I can do for you. I’m just doing my job.”

She later tells him, “You don’t get it.” 

“You don’t either,” he responds. 

When she says that she does, Skinner explains that if she did, then his mask wouldn’t be a problem. “It’s not that it’s a problem with me, Denzel. It’s a company thing.”

She later says, “Would you let somebody wear something that said something about white people on it?”

“Bro, if that’s what they stand for, yes,” he responds. 

The shorter video ends with the woman stating: “I’m not against what you stand for either, but I have to do what the company states.”

In the longer version, Skinner dives off and goes on to talk about his disbelief over what happened, asking people to share the video. 

Skinner Continues to Speak Out 

Skinner talked about the incident a little more on Facebook, saying he had worked for the company for eight years and found the reason for his firing “ridiculous.”

He later shared screenshots of text messages he received about the store’s mask policies, which do not prohibit him from wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. 

According to the first screenshot, masks were not required but if worn, they had to be cleaned daily and cover the mouth and nose area. It also included some instructions for removing the masks, not wearing them under your chin, or touching them throughout the day. 

The second screenshot said masks now had to be worn at all times and worn correctly, but again had no information about certain designs or messages being prohibited. 

It’s also worth noting that Taco Bell’s employee handbook does not appear to make any reference to wearing “political” items.

When speaking to reporters, Skinner has continued to stress that Taco Bell’s policy does not prohibit him from wearing the mask, adding, “If the governor and governments are requiring us to wear masks, we should be able to wear any type of mask that you want.”

“And not only that, I still want everyone to believe that we still need justice for what is happening in this world and people need to be held accountable for whatever mistakes that they make. Black lives are going to always matter. Not just when some people want it to matter. It will always matter.”

Taco Bell Responds 

Taco Bell apparently caught wind of the incident and emailed a statement to some local news outlets last week. 

“We are disappointed to learn what took place in Youngstown. We are working with our franchisee that operates this location to understand what happened,” the company said. 

“We are committed to fighting racial injustice and hosting open forums to give restaurant teams an opportunity to discuss racism in America. Our priority is to be an inclusive brand while keeping team members and customers safe.”

The statement also said that because of supply shortages, employees are allowed to bring their own face coverings, however, it said, “As this is a fluid situation, we’re in the process of considering the need to revise mask and uniform requirements to address recent concerns.”

Still, Skinner said that he would not ask for his job back or return if asked. On Friday, he and about 30 people peacefully marched to the Taco Bell to protest his firing. 

Internet Gets Angry 

Even though all of this unfolded last week, it seems to have really started picking up attention online late last night and early this morning. That’s because people like YouTuber Elijah Daniel have been sharing the short video on Twitter. 

Daniel, as you might know, has been very vocal about protests and efforts that support BLM over the last few weeks. And he helped bring a new wave of attention to the video, along with Denzel’s Facebook posts and screenshots.

Even though Taco Bell made it’s statement to some local media outlets, it’s been silent on social media.

The company’s last post is from June 2 and it links to a letter from Taco Bell CEO Mark King, which condemns racism and says the company is “committed to being part of long term solutions.” But notably, that posts also said the company is muting its channels for the rest of the week to reflect, learn, and listen. It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent.

It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent. 

So to that message, Daniel said, “nahhhhhh sorry we sad about it but y’all goin too, i have your name tatted on me, been in commercials and y’all unfollowed me for just asking you about it lmfao. it’s also been 2 weeks since your statement and you haven’t done anything? disappointing. #RIPTacoBell.”

Along with Daniel, a ton of people expressed their disappointment with the fast-food chain, with some calling for a boycott. 

Others said that the fight for black lives isn’t a political issue and were confused by the firing given Taco Bell’s recent pledge to be a part of the solution.

Some have shared similar experiences they’ve faced, with one operating room nurse saying she left her job after she was told she couldn’t wear a mask that said, “My son deserves to live.” 

A lot of people are also comparing this situation to backlash Starbucks faced last week when people learned that its employees were banned from wearing Black Lives Matter attire under its dress code policy. The coffee chain at the time, prohibited employees from wearing attire that advocates for a political, religious, or personal matter. After a flood of outrage, it walked back on that policy and promised to send out BLM t-shirts co-designed by the Starbucks Black Partner Network. 

So with this incident at Taco Bell, people are finding a lot of these big company statements in support of Black Lives Matter hollow. 

Taco Bell’s Latest Statement

After seeing the backlash this morning, Taco Bell issued another statement to more news outlets, essentially hitting the same notes it did before by saying it was disappointed.

“We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue,” it said.

“Our Chief People Officer and Yum!’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer spoke with Denzel last week to apologize and discuss the situation.” 

“Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe. 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.”

Still, people like Daniel think they should be more vocal. He told Insider that Taco Bell “posted two weeks ago that they were ‘going mute for a week’ to make changes, sort of the opposite of what any brand should be doing, and still have yet to do anything publicly. Whether they’re doing things privately, that’s fine, but this isn’t a time to be private. It’s great that they apologized, but what is being done about his firing? The manager?”

See what others are saying: (WKBN) (Heavy) (Insider

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Meta Reinstates Trump on Facebook and Instagram

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The company, which banned the former president two years ago for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, now says the risk to public safety has “sufficiently receded.” 


Meta Ends Suspension

Meta announced Wednesday that it will reinstate the Facebook and Instagram accounts of former President Donald Trump, just two years after he was banned for using the platforms to incite a violent insurrection.

In a blog post, the company said the suspensions would be lifted “in the coming weeks” but with “new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.”

Specifically, Meta stated that due to Trump’s violations of its Community Standards, he will face “heightened penalties for repeat offenses” under new protocols for “public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest.”

“In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” the blog post continued.

The company also noted its updated protocols address content that doesn’t violate its Community Standards but “contributes to the sort of risk that materialized on January 6, such as content that delegitimizes an upcoming election or is related to QAnon.”

However, unlike direct violations, that content would have its distribution limited, but it would not be taken down. As a penalty for repeat offenses, Meta says it “may temporarily restrict access to […] advertising tools.”

As far as why the company is doing this, it explained that it assessed whether or not to extend the “unprecedented” two-year suspension it placed on Trump back in January of 2021 and determined that the risk to public safety had “sufficiently receded.”

Meta also argued that social media is “rooted in the belief that open debate and the free flow of ideas are important values” and it does not want to “get in the way of open, public and democratic debate.”

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” the tech giant added.

Response

Meta’s decision prompted widespread backlash from many people who argue the former president has clearly not learned from the past because he continues to share lies about the election, conspiracy theories, and other incendiary language on Truth Social.

“Trump incited an insurrection. And tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Ca.) tweeted. “He’s shown no remorse. No contrition. Giving him back access to a social media platform to spread his lies and demagoguery is dangerous. @facebook caved, giving him a platform to do more harm.”

According to estimates last month by the advocacy groups Accountable Tech and Media Matters for America, over 350 of Trump’s posts on the platform would have explicitly violated Facebook’s policies against QAnon content, election claims, and harassment of marginalized groups.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to reinstate Trump’s accounts is a prime example of putting profits above people’s safety,”  NAACP President Derrick Johnson told NPR

“It’s quite astonishing that one can spew hatred, fuel conspiracies, and incite a violent insurrection at our nation’s Capitol building, and Mark Zuckerberg still believes that is not enough to remove someone from his platforms.”

However, on the other side, many conservatives and Trump supporters have cheered the move as a win for free speech.

Others, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) also asserted that Trump “shouldn’t have been banned in the first place. Can’t happen again.”

Trump himself echoed that point on in a post on Truth Social, where he claimed Facebook has lost billions of dollars both removing and reinstating him.

Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution! THANK YOU TO TRUTH SOCIAL FOR DOING SUCH AN INCREDIBLE JOB. YOUR GROWTH IS OUTSTANDING, AND FUTURE UNLIMITED!!!” he continued. 

The question that remains, however, is whether Trump will actually go back to Facebook or Instagram. As many have noted, the two were never his main platforms. Twitter was always been his preferred outlet, and while Elon Musk reinstated his account some time ago, he has not been posting on the site.

There is also the question of how Truth Social — which Trump created and put millions of dollars into — would survive if he went back to Meta’s platforms. The company is already struggling financially, and as Axios notes, if Trump moves back, it signals to investors that he is not confident in the company.

On the other hand, Trump’s lawyers formally petitioned Meta to reinstate him, which could indicate that this goes beyond just a symbolic win and is something he actually wants. Additionally, if he were to start engaging on Facebook and Instagram again, it would immediately give him access to his over 57 million followers across the two platforms while he continues his 2024 presidential campaign.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (Axios) (The New York Times)

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Meta Encouraged to Change Nudity Policy in Potential Win For Free The Nipple Movement

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The company’s oversight board said Meta’s current rules are too confusing to follow, and new guidelines should be developed to “respect international human rights standards.”


Rules Based in “A Binary View of Gender”

In a move many have described as a big step for Free The Nipple advocates, Meta’s oversight board released a decision Tuesday encouraging the company to modify its nudity and sexual activity policies so that social media users are treated “without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.”

The board—which consists of lawyers, journalists, and academics—said the parent company of Facebook and Instagram should change its guidelines “so that it is governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards.”

Its decision came after a transgender and nonbinary couple had two different posts removed for alleged violations of Meta’s Sexual Solicitation Community Standard. Both posts included images of the couple bare-chested with their nipples covered along with captions discussing transgender healthcare, as they were fundraising for one of them to undergo top surgery.

Both posts, one from 2021 and another from 2022, were taken down after users reported it and Meta’s own automated system flagged it. The posts were restored after an appeal, but the oversight board stated that their initial removal highlights faults in the company’s policies. 

“Removing these posts is not in line with Meta’s Community Standards, values or human rights responsibilities,” the board said in its decision, 

According to the board, Meta’s sexual solicitation policy is too broad and creates confusion for social media users. The board also said the policy is “based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies.

“Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale,” the decision continued. 

Free the Nipple Movement

The board stated that the rules get especially confusing regarding female nipples, “particularly as they apply to transgender and non-binary people.”

While there are exceptions to Meta’s rules, including posts in medical or health contexts, the board said that these exceptions are “often convoluted and poorly defined.” 

“The lack of clarity inherent in this policy creates uncertainty for users and reviewers, and makes it unworkable in practice,” the decision said. 

The board’s recommended that Meta change how it manages nudity on its platforms. The group also requested that Meta provide more details regarding what content specifically violates its Sexual Solicitation Community Standard. 

For over a decade, Meta’s nudity policies have been condemned by many activists and users for strictly censoring female bodies. The Free the Nipple movement was created to combat rules that prevent users from sharing images of a bare female chest, but still allow men to freely post topless photos of themselves. 

Big names including Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Florence Pugh have advocated for Free the Nipple.
Meta now has 60 days to respond to the board’s recommendations. In a statement to the New York Post, a spokesperson for the company said Meta is “constantly evaluating our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone.”

See What Others Are Saying: (Mashable) (The New York Post) (Oversight Committee Decision)

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Amazon Labor Union Receives Official Union Certification

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The company already plans to appeal the decision.


Amazon Labor Union’s Victory 

The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday certified the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) Staten Island election from April, despite Amazon’s objections. 

After Staten Island staffers won the vote to unionize by 500 votes in the spring of 2022, Amazon quickly filed a slew of objections, claiming that the ALU had improperly influenced the election. Amazon pushed for the results to be overturned. 

Now, the National Labor Relations Board has dismissed Amazon’s allegations and certified the election. This certification gives legitimacy to the ALU and puts Amazon in a position to be penalized should they decide not to bargain with the union in good faith. 

“We’re demanding that Amazon now, after certification, meet and bargain with us,” ALU attorney Seth Goldstein said to Motherboard regarding the certification. “We’re demanding bargaining, and if we need to, we’re going to move to get a court order enforcing our bargaining rights. It’s outrageous that they’ve been violating federal labor while they continue to do so.”

Negotiate or Appeal 

Amazon has until Jan. 25 to begin bargaining with the ALU, or the online retailer can appeal the decision by the same deadline. The company has already announced its plan to appeal. 

“As we’ve said since the beginning, we don’t believe this election process was fair, legitimate, or representative of the majority of what our team wants,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel, said in a statement.

This win comes after two recent defeats in ALU’s unionization efforts. The union lost an election at a facility in Albany and another in Staten Island. 

ALU’s director Chris Smalls told Yahoo! Finance that he is unconcerned about these losses.

“For us, whatever campaign is ready to go, the Amazon Labor Union is going to throw their support behind it, no matter what…We know that it’s going to take collective action for Amazon to come to the table,” he told the outlet. “So, for us, it’s never unsuccessful. These are growing pains, and we’re going to fight and continue to grow.”

See what others are saying: (Vice) (NPR) (Bloomberg)

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