Work not a black-tie affair for corrections employee

Court rules officer was improperly disciplined for wearing a tie prohibited by new dress code; depressed employee felt it was part of his identity
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Dress code flap over a tie

Some people balk at putting on a tie. However, a labour dispute between the Correctional Services of Canada (CSC) and one of its officers has put a twist on the issue of accommodation in dress codes.

In 2005, the CSC instituted a new dress code that replaced ties with black T-shirts under the uniform shirt. François Demers didn’t like the change after 28 years and continued to wear his tie with the new uniform. He was warned and later fined, and eventually he went on sick leave due to the pressure from his supervisors to lose the tie.

Psychiatric evaluations determined Demers suffered from depression and he depended on wearing a tie as part of his identity at work. However, CSC officials didn’t relent and he was declared unfit to work.

The board found CSC could have accommodated Demers without difficulty by allowing him to wear the tie and the discipline he received was unfair.

The case, while somewhat unusual, is another example of how employers must be open to accommodation, especially where it’s a matter that may be minor for the employer but can be significant for the employee.

The Canada Public Service Labour Relations Board has found a corrections officer was discriminated against when he was disciplined for not complying with his employer’s dress code.