Wearing a Gadsden Flag hat to work could be considered racial harassment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the government body that oversees “hostile work environment” harassment claims against federal agencies.

The iconic flag, which originates from the Revolutionary War, features coiled snake above the words “Don’t Tread On Me.” In recent years, it has become a favorite symbol of the Tea Party movement and conservative activists.

Earlier this year, the EEOC received a complaint from a “Shelton,” an African American, who charged that his employer (the federal government) had subjected him to racial discrimination when a coworker “repeatedly wore a cap with an insignia of the Gadsden Flag.” Shelton (not his real name) said he found the cap to be “racially offensive” because the man who designed it in 1775, Christopher Gadsden, was a slave owner and because the insignia was a “historical indicator of white resentment against blacks stemming largely from the Tea Party.”

The EEOC acknowledged that the flag did not originate with the Tea Party movement, and was created centuries ago “in a non-racial context.” However, the commission also found that the Gadsden Flag could be “interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts,” citing as an example a 2014 shooting spree in which white supremacists draped Gadsden Flags over the bodies of two murdered police officers.

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