Sen. Ton Cotton, R-Arkansas, noted the irony of companies that he said discriminate against conservatives that run to the GOP to protect them from regulation.
A nonprofit law firm is taking legal action against the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), alleging that the government agency illegally ignored Kroger shareholders who tried to protect employees from discrimination based on political ideology.
America First Legal (AFL) joined the Washington, D.C.-based Boyden Gray & Associates in filing a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) and two individual shareholders in the grocery retail giant, AFL announced in a press release last week.
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In December, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., scolded Kroger Chair and CEO Rodney McMullen for the company's "woke" policies, noting the company paid $180,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by two former employees in Arkansas who claimed they were fired for refusing to wear aprons celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
NCPPR, a communications and research foundation, is also a longtime Kroger shareholder and it sent a proposal to the company urging them to release a public report explaining the potential pitfalls of excluding "viewpoint" and "ideology" from its equal opportunity policy.
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Kroger settled a lawsuit last year filed by two former employees in Arkansas who were fired after they refused to wear aprons celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. (Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)
NCPPR maintained to the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance that the proposal "deals with matters relating to the Company’s ordinary business operations" because it only applies to "Kroger’s management of its workforce and policies concerning employees."
The foundation alleges the SEC is itself engaging in viewpoint discrimination by allowing proposals against discrimination such as sexual orientation and gender identity, while not carving out protections based on political viewpoints.
Kroger "strives to reflect the communities we serve and foster a culture that empowers everyone to be their true self," according to its "Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion."
The company has also committed "to a policy of equal opportunity for all associates without regard to race, color, religion, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity," according to "The Kroger Co. Policy on Business Ethics" adopted by the board.
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Kroger “strives to reflect the communities we serve and foster a culture that empowers everyone to be their true self,” according to its “Framework for Action: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” (Google Maps / Google Maps)
"America First Legal is proud to serve as co-counsel in this critical legal action to ensure no American, regardless of political ideology, is discriminated against," the firm said in a news release. "The federal government has proven once again they are willing to break the law to propel their partisan liberal agenda while ignoring concerns from conservatives."
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"For too long, big corporations – taken hostage by left-wing antagonists – have advanced ideological interests at shareholder expense," said Gene Hamilton, who serves as vice president and general counsel for AFL.
"And for too long, big government has not only enabled their crusade against shareholder interests, but it has also enabled their crusade against the American people and the national interest. We are proud to represent our clients in this case and to fight against viewpoint discrimination in corporate America," he added.
AFL general counsel Gene Hamilton said big-government agencies like the SEC have enabled a “crusade” from corporations against shareholder interests. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)
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Kroger did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FOX Business, and a spokesperson for the SEC declined to comment.