HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Controversy in Hamden – a worker at Hamden sub shop says he was told to leave work last Friday because he showed up wearing a Black Lives Matter facemask.
On Sunday, the community rallied around him. But the company he works for says it was simply a matter of uniform requirements and hygiene.
A small protest was held outside DiBella’s Subs Sunday. News 8 spoke exclusively with the employee at the heart of the controversy.
Andre Alexander, a shift manager at the restaurant on Dixwell Avenue, says he showed up to work wearing a BLM mask last Friday. He says his assistant manager said he had to remove it. When he refused he was told to go home.
“A little disappointed but I felt strong,” he told News 8. “The reason being, at that point in time as soon as I did that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who I serve – was gonna fight for me. He was going to back me up.”
That back up came in the form of a community group called ‘Hamden Action Now’. They’ve held three different protests in front of the sub shop since Friday. Twice the shop has had to close early.
Hamden’s Police Chief was there Sunday afternoon; he called the protest peaceful.
Alexander has not been fired. His next shift is Friday and he says he plans on wearing the same BLM facemask he wore last week.
He wants an apology from DiBella’s.
In a response to an inquiry from News 8 Sunday evening, DiBella’s said the situation was simply a matter of uniform, not an effort to silence the BLM message.
DiBella’s Subs feels very strongly about equality and social justice, and we take this accusation very seriously. This incident has nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter message on this individual’s mask. Employees are not allowed to wear ANY masks other than the company-issued masks.
DiBella’s Subs requires all employees to wear company-issued uniforms, including company-issued masks. The original company mask policy was implemented in April 2020, which allowed employees to wear their own masks as long as they did not have symbols or words. In June of 2020, we were able to source enough masks to consistently provide them to all employees as part of their uniform. Our mask policy of company-issued masks is critical to ensure that every mask is clean, safe, and hygienic.
This employee was asked to switch his personal mask for the company-issued mask. This same policy applies to other pieces of the uniform for all DiBella’s employees, such as company-issued shirts.
Unfortunately, this weekend we’ve been seeing misinformation spread. We pride ourselves on inclusive values, and we have already launched several diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives with employees across our entire footprint this year.
DiBella’s COO Bill Kressner – who has had several conversations with Andre in recent months as DiBella’s worked to launch new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives – reached out to Andre and offered to talk with him about his concerns.
Andre has been a strong leader and a valued employee. They spoke yesterday and Bill approved the day off for Andre to protest.
As a family-owned company, with a vested interest in Hamden, Connecticut, and all of the communities we serve, DiBella’s Subs strives to foster a familial culture throughout all of our markets. We value our employees’ perspectives, and we are committed to their continued growth. We encourage an open dialogue and believe conversations drive positive change.AJ Shear Director of Marketing/ DiBella’s Subs