Recently, Arbitrator Claude Lauzon rendered a decision dealing with the issue of the right of the employer to prohibit several letter carriers from wearing jeans in the workplace​.In this matter, the employer had imposed a one-day suspension on certain letter carriers on the ground that they wore jeans for approximately ten days during their rounds delivering mail.

The union filed a grievance against the disciplinary measures imposed, arguing it infringed the freedom of expression of the employees during the period of bargaining for the new collective agreement.

In defence, the employer relied upon the provisions of the collective agreement, as well as the practice in the enterprise, regarding the mandatory wearing of a uniform and the protection of its image.

From the outset, the arbitrator noted that there was a conflict between an unambiguous provision of the collective agreement requiring the wearing of the uniform and the freedom of expression of the employees. Further to an analysis of the relevant case law in the subject area, including certain decisions involving the same parties, the arbitrator found that the method used by the letter carriers was neither offensive nor harmful to the business of the employer.

In the arbitrator’s view, the right of employees to express their point of view should take precedence over the employer’s right to impose wearing of a uniform. To succeed in convincing the arbitrator that the disciplinary measures imposed were legitimate, the employer had the burden to prove the harmful effect of this pressure tactic, which it did not do.

Consequently, the arbitrator allowed the grievance and quashed the disciplinary measures imposed. 

Société canadienne des postes vs. Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs des postes (griefs individuels, François Bécotte et autres), D.T.E. 2013T-800.