Arbitrator Upholds Ban On On-Duty Earrings

The collective bargaining agreement between the Lawrence, Massachusetts Patrolmen’s Association and the City of Lawrence is silent on the issue of a grooming code. The contract does contain a maintenance of benefits clause that prohibits the unilateral change of any mandatory subjects of bargaining.

When the City issued a new grooming policy prohibiting officers from wearing earrings or ear studs while in uniform, the Association challenged the City’s decision through the grievance procedure. An arbitrator rejected the Association’s challenge.

While the Arbitrator concluded that the Association’s argument that the ban on earrings was mandatorily negotiable “had merit,” he ruled that the silence of the contract on the point coupled with the provision giving the City the right to make reasonable rules overcame the Association’s bargaining rights. In the Arbitrator’s judgment, an officer’s appearance “may, indeed, be crucial to his or her effectiveness in law enforcement. And that, in turn, makes his or her appearance vital to a local government’s discharge of its central responsibilities to the community.”

City of Lawrence, Massachusetts, LAIG 6485 (Bornstein, 2006).

This article appears in the July 2007 issue