In the news today it has been reported that a retail chain has been ordered to pay a whopping €2,500 payout to one of its workers who was sent home and remained off work for months without any further pay simply for having an untidy beard of which the disapproved of.
In the case placed before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudication officer Mr. Jim Dolan reportedly stated that the sending home of the worker without any further payment, based on a 'hairy incident’ “was a punitive action” made by the currently unnamed retail chain.
Although that the scale of the worker’s loss of earnings has not yet been made publicly clear, the recommending amount of compensation payout stood at a staggering €2,500.
The unnamed staff member had worked with the retail chain since June of 2012, with nothing bad on his working record prior to this happening, in fact, he had even been awarded a number of workplace awards for his service within his working position.
In his claim which files under industrial relations laws, the gentlemen – who surprisingly remains employed with the retail chain but is currently on sick leave had claimed that “management began a personal vendetta against him just because he had a beard”.
He said that the management’s behavior towards him began to deteriorate around mid 2014 due to him choosing to grow out some facial hair.
The gentleman quickly highlighted some points in the company’s staff handbook, which stated that staff are allowed to have a beard as long as it is kept neat and tidy, of which the worker claims to be the case in regards to his facial hair.
In a formal letter to the retail chain’s CEO, the worker’s mother quickly contended that her son’s beard was kept tidy and well groomed, just as was required.
Could this be nothing more than another case of workplace bullying and harassment? Or simply rules being broken by the employer?
The man’s union told the WRC that the man’s treatment by his management regarding his beard was “totally unacceptable'' and was seen as nothing more than ''a form of bullying and harassment” displayed by the company.
The union said that the suspension was granted to him without subjecting him to any form disciplinary procedure by the company, which is a blatant breach of fair employer procedures.
As mentioned above the company handbook reads that “beards and mustaches should remain neat and tidy at all times. In other words ''well-groomed” but fails to define what was considered as neat and tidy.
The union said that management also failed to supply their employee with the correct beard nets, and instead of trying to resolve the issue in a more constructive manner, they only made matters worse by suspending him for four months without further pay.
The complaint also added that when the worker sourced his own beard nets, the management simply refused to let him wear them and instead sent him home still unpaid.
The worker claims that because of the unacceptable treatment over his beard, he has since suffered from depression and was certified by doctors unfit to work due to work related stress and upset, which is why he remains off work on the sick today.
In response, the retail chain has said that it must retain the primacy of the management in making the call on what is considered neat and appropriate appearance for work, including what would constitute a neat beard. The company also pointed out that it sells fresh food and must remain vigilant at all times about food safety.
The retailer added that in addition to being extremely vigilant about food safety, they must also be vigilant about their customers’ perception of how they approach food safety, hence why they remain strict on all employees’ appearance.
It stated that beard nets were not available when this was an ongoing issue for the worker, but they have since been introduced to the workplace, and these should allow the worker to style his beard according to his own taste while still adhering to the appearance standards of the workplace.
An internal appeal found that at no stage was the worker formally suspended, but that he was sent home as his beard was not neat and tidy. As part of the investigation, Similar retail stores were visited of the chain’s stores and reported seeing a number of male employees with beards of various shapes and sizes in other stores.
It was reported that there were no male bearded employees wearing beard nets either, despite some of them working behind food counters. This concluded that local store managers have a degree of discretion on such rulings in relation to what constitutes a well groomed and tidy beard.
But as always we would love to read what you guys think about such rulings in the workplace? Have you met similar strict rules at work? As always get in touch via the comments section below.
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And until next, Beard on Brothers...