HR Strange But True!
October 18, 2002

Dress code follies, Part 1

Costco Wholesale Corp. of Springfield, Mass., faces a $2 million lawsuit from fired employee Kimberly M. Cloutier, who claims the company had no right to demand removal of her eyebrow ring. The jewelry, she maintains, is a symbol of her religious beliefs.

Cloutier, 27, belongs to the Church of Body Modification. She says her piercings, which include several earrings in each ear and a recently acquired lip ring, are worn as a sign of faith and help to unite her mind, body, and soul. "It's not just an aesthetic thing," she told the Union-News of Springfield. "It's your body; you're taking control of it."

Cloutier filed her federal suit in May, after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that Costco probably violated religious-discrimination laws when its West Springfield store fired Cloutier in July 2001. According to the Union-News, EEOC Boston-area chief Robert L. Sanders determined that Cloutier's wearing of an eyebrow ring qualified as a religious practice under federal law. He further determined that Costco refused to accommodate the practice.

Costco believes it acted "in the best interest of its members and customers," said Lynn A. Kappelman, a lawyer representing the company. Kappelman said Costco bars facial piercings "in the same way that we require our employees to be sanitary and clean and neat in our dress." She was reluctant to call Costco's objection to facial piercings a hygiene matter but remarked that "hygiene could be an issue if an employee had numerous piercings or open sores."

Cloutier told the Union-News that she had been wearing her eyebrow ring on the job for about 2½ years - without problems - when the company issued a new dress code in the spring of 2001. It barred facial and tongue jewelry and visible tattoos, along with sweatpants, jeans with holes, and open-toed shoes.

Cloutier said she met with Costco managers and explained her relgious convictions but was sent home and told she couldn't return with the piercing. A few days later, Cloutier filed a religious discrimination charge with the EEOC, accusing Costco of violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She said she was in frequent contact with the company for two weeks, hoping to return to work. But then a termination notice arrived by mail.

Cloutier, who worked in the deli department and then as a cashier, said customers never told her they didn't like her eyebrow ring. "I never had one complaint from anybody," she said, adding the line at her register was always as long as the others.

Source: Springfield (Mass.) Union-News

Dress code follies, Part 2

Ian Jarman is unhappy about having to wear a tie to his job with an employment agency in England - so he is accusing management of sex discrimination.

Jarman, 46, said Monday that he is taking his complaint against Job Center Plus to one of the country's employment tribunals, according to the Associated Press.

"It is ridiculous. I have done this job for 26 years without wearing a tie, and it has never affected my ability to do the job," he said. "It is sexual discrimination. The dress code says that female members of staff can wear an open-necked blouse. Why should male members of staff have to wear a tie?"

"I am wearing a tie for the time being as I don't want to get into a disciplinary procedure, but I find it uncomfortable and I prefer just to wear a shirt and trousers."

Management says the tie is needed to project a professional image. Jarman, a union official, says a person's clothing has nothing to do with his or her professionalism.

Source: Associated Press, via

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