Main Menu
Employment Law Alert: NLRB Says Prohibition Against The Wearing Of Any Buttons Other Than Employer-Issued Buttons Unlawful

In a decision issued on January 19 in P.S.K. Supermarkets, Inc., the NLRB struck down as overly broad the employer’s ban on employees wearing any buttons on their uniforms other than those issued by the employer. The employees involved were grocery store cashiers and deli, bakery, meat and produce department clerks who had substantial contact with the store’s customers. These employees were also required to wear uniforms issued by the store. On March 22, 2005, the store posted a memo on the employee bulletin board prohibiting the wearing of any buttons on the outside of employees’ uniforms, other than store-issued buttons. Two employees were told that they could wear their union buttons, but only on the inside of their uniforms (not in public view). The employer attempted to justify the ban based on the employees’ contact with customers, the fact that they wore uniforms, and that the prohibition was non-discriminatory in that it banned all non-store-issued buttons -- not just union buttons. The Board, however, rejected these arguments, stating that, absent “special circumstances” that warrant employees being prohibited from wearing union insignia, such bans are unlawful. According to the Board, “special circumstances” “include situations where display of union insignia might ‘jeopardize employee safety, damage machinery or products, exacerbate employee dissention, or unreasonably interfere with a public image that the employer has established, as part of its business plan, through appearance rules for employees.’” Earlier Board decisions make it clear that customer exposure to union insignia, without more, will not constitute special circumstances. Equally unavailing is an employer’s requirement that employees wear uniforms, or the fact that the ban applies to all buttons, not just union buttons.

Bottom Line

This case is a good reminder of the danger posed by being overly restrictive with respect to employees’ wearing of pro-union buttons, pins, etc. in the workplace. Total bans will be closely scrutinized by the NLRB and, if it is not satisfied that the employer has demonstrated the existence of “special circumstances,” it will likely find such bans unlawful.



Recent Posts




Back to Page