Workplace Dress Code Leads to Walkout

Faribault Daily News reported last Monday on a dress code policy that led to the walkout of 30 Muslim women and men from Dianne’s Fine Desserts in Le Center, Minnesota.

Sometime in May, a woman’s long dress got caught in a boot washer — a floor machine that washes footwear and is required for plant sanitary guidelines. The company changed their dress code policy to ban all skirts and dresses that hang below the knee. Jeans and pants must now be tucked into boots.

The Muslim men and women who walked off say that the long dress for women is necessary for their religious beliefs, and that the company is implementing the policy to force them out.

I call bullshit on both sides. Dianne’s needs those 30 workers – they are 12% of the 250-person workforce. Worker safety should trump all else on a work site. I dislike that the company has to make religious accommodations, but let’s be realistic. If a good number of Dianne’s Fine Desserts workforce is demanding the accommodation, they should try to find a way to make it possible for them to work there. Compromise must be reached. How hard did Dianne’s search for another way to acheive the boot washing effect? Could they have a private area for the boot washer for those women who needed to raise their skirts? Could a simple awareness program have been put in place that would negate the need for a “no long skirt” policy?

The EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) states that an employer must reasonably accommodate a worker’s religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would cause undue hardship — including compromising workplace safety.

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Workplace Dress Code Leads to Walkout
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3 thoughts on “Workplace Dress Code Leads to Walkout

  1. 1

    The thought of allowing people to enter a food production area in skirts long enough to cover them to the ankles makes the epidemiologist in me cringe. The work boots, no matter how well washed, will immediately be contaminated by whatever is on the skirt, and as anyone who has worn ankle-length skirts knows, the hem at the back drags the ground whenever you sit or go down stairs. Pigeon poop, dog feces, spit … whatever’s on the steps or the floor of the vehicle or around your chair ends up on the skirt.

    It makes the safety trainer in me cringe too. Yes, a skirt got caught in the bootwasher … is that the only machine with moving parts they have?

    The boot washing machine has to be between non-production and production areas – at the entrance to the production floor. It has to be hard-plumbed and wired into the plants facilities … they don’t move easily. It should visible, like the hand washing station in a restaurant, so it’s easy to see if anyone forgets it so you can remind them.

    They could bring back the old Muslim Turkish costume of bloomers and a mid-thigh tunic. Tuck the bloomers into the boots. Or hand out bunnysuits, that generic unisex coverall that makes everyone look dumpy.

    Islam requires “modest dress” … and a number of fatwas have declared that safety and job requirements trump customs as long as modesty isn’t being completely ignored. The Muslims at Intel did not object to wearing bunnysuits in the production areas. Neither did their imams.

  2. 3

    I agree with your “bullshit on both sides” take on this.

    Modesty does not equal skirt.

    “Undue hardship” usually leaves a company free reign to just throw up their hands and say “not our problem”. I’ve see that used as an excuse to back out of all sorts of crap and I really cannot stand that losely defined legalsleeze.

    The only thing that will resolve this is mediation between the company and the affected employees. Unfortunately, I don’t really think that there will be a resolve of this issue without outside help since once religious sensitivies enter the picture emotions elevate to rediculous levels.

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