HR Strange But True!
June 21, 2001
You already know that HR is never boring, but here's proof from this week's news that it can get downright weird...

A Shocking Prospect

The telephone company Ameritech has given three of its linemen a choice: Lose the jewelry, or lose your jobs.

The company fears the jewelry could conduct electricity in an accident, according to the Chicago Tribune. And in the case of Nicholas Ficarra, who has a slender rod of metal inserted through his eyebrow, Ameritech believes the accessory could obstruct his vision.

But all three have fought the demand. They've been suspended without pay pending a resolution.

"It may seem like a little issue to some people, but years ago they didn't let people wear beards," Ficarra, 22, told the Tribune. "We feel we're being discriminated against because of one person's opinion."

"This isn't a question of jewelry," countered Ameritech spokeswoman Denise Koenig. "It's a question of safety. We require suitable clothing. We want to make sure their vision isn't obstructed."

A safety specialist for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted that OSHA guidelines call for technicians who work near power lines to forgo wearing anything that conducts electricity, even wedding rings.

And Ameritech would be wise to follow the OSHA standard to the letter, said Thomas Lys, a faculty member of Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

"I don't see the upside for the company to allow employees to wear any jewelry that could be hazardous," Lys told the Tribune. "If something happens to an employee, they'll get sued for not protecting the worker."

But Ficarra said he and the other linemen would have no problem if Ameritech banned all jewelry on the job. "Other workers have earrings," he said. "If Ameritech was consistent, they'd make people remove everything that might snag on something."

Source: Chicago Tribune.

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