Dress codes in the workplace are nothing new, with most Wisconsin employees having to abide by some kind of dress policy while on the job. However, can employers go too far when enforcing these polices and end up violating employment law? According to the outcome of a recent case, yes they can.
In-N-Out Burger is a popular west-coast burger joint that recently made headlines for violating federal labor laws. The issue started in another state, where workers wore badges that promoted the cause of higher minimum wages for food industry workers. However, In-N-Out quickly put a stop to this by forbidding its workers from wearing the pins, which they said fell under a company rule of no stickers or pins.
However, when they were taken to court over the matter, the fast food burger restaurant claimed that the pins were a safety risk. Since they were smaller than the pins they required employees to wear during April and the months around Christmas to promote charity, the company argued that the pins could unknowingly fall into a customer's burger. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit pointed out that In-N-Out had originally only stated that any pins or badges other than those provided by the company itself were banned.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers have the right to wear pins, badges and other items that inform about their wages, hours, labor conditions, union support and other protected topics. Employers must be able to establish with concrete evidence that special circumstances prevent them from permitting workers to wear such items. According to the court, In-N-Out did not provide such evidence.
Employment law is complicated, leaving many Wisconsin workers confused about their rights. When told by an employer that they are not permitted to wear an item at work, some workers fear that they will be penalized or even fired for not immediately complying. Although this is unfortunately the case in some instances, employees can be held accountable for their wrongful actions through carefully pursued legal claims.