NLRB strikes down dress code at N.J. hospital

Dickies Medical Apparel
Image Courtesy Dickies Medical Apparel

No matter which side of the great dress code debate you are on, you’re typically at the mercy of the powers that be at your workplace when it comes to whether or not you have to follow a dress code.

But now it looks like the union also may have a legal say in the matter if you work at a hospital with a collective bargaining agreement.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that a New Jersey hospital violated a collective bargaining agreement when it instituted a color-coded dress code without consulting the union prior to the change. Before the implementation of the dress code, employees could choose from a wide variety of scrubs styles and colors, and it seems the ruling hinges on the fact that many previously purchased uniforms became banned under the new dress code.

“These changes had a significant financial impact on unit employees,” the opinion said, according to an article on Law360.com. “As the judge found, the new color-coded uniform requirements ‘rendered useless most, if not all, of their personal scrub inventories containing other colors and styles.’ Notably, respondent must have recognized this adverse financial impact because it provided three free sets of scrubs to reduce the initial monetary cost to employees of complying with the new policy.”

The dress code change was made in September 2012 at Memorial Hospital of Salem County, which is owned by Salem Hospital Corp. Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rosas had previously ruled that the dress code violated the hospital’s contract with the union, and Salem Hospital Corp. lobbied the NLRB to overturn that ruling. But the NLRB upheld Rosas’s initial ruling and also ordered the hospital to rehire any employees terminated because of dress code infractions. Additionally, the hospital must pay any lost wages as well as out-of-pocket expenses incurred because of the dress code, according to an article by the National Law Review.

We know dress codes are a divisive issue; what are your thoughts on this ruling? Let us know in the comments below!

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