The Ottawa Hospital was attempting to fix a problem that didn’t exist when it unilaterally imposed a new dress code on employees according to a recent arbitration decision.
Most contentious was a requirement that workers at the hospital cover up large tattoos as well as prohibiting “visible, excessive body piercings.”
The Ottawa Hospital also stopped certain workers from wearing jeans and Bermuda shorts and insisted nurses wear lab coats in the hospital while off duty.
All of these restrictions were struck down in the January 14th decision following a 2010 policy grievance by CUPE Local 4000.
Arbitrator Lorne Slotnick stated in his ruling: “the employer’s argument is explicitly based on its willingness to accept and acquiesce to patients’ perceived prejudices and stereotypes about tattoos and piercings, even as it offers no evidence that these have any impact on health outcomes… The hospital could not and would not accede to the wishes of a patient who might be uncomfortable with a care provider based on the employee’s race or ethnic identity, even though some patients might harbour those types of prejudices.”
Slotnick said that no patient was being forced to “accept” tattoos, but instead were receiving care from many individuals who reflected the diversity expected in a big city.