"Dressing for Excess: San Francisco Court cracks down on dress code 'enforcement'"
2014-02-25 from "1021 NewsWire":
Back in August 2007, when Local 1021 was barely six months old, we held our first local-wide worksite action at the Superior Court of Sonoma County, where court workers were suddenly being disciplined and harassed for wearing purple to work. Not just SEIU purple and buttons displaying union pride: any purple. We rallied at the courthouse, got management to the table, and in the end stopped the harassment and disciplinary actions.
Flash forward to February 20, 2014 (last Thursday), when San Francisco court workers rallied outside the Civic Center courthouse to protest management's arbitrary new 'enforcement' of its dress code. While professing professionalism, supervisors seem more intent on exercising new forms of hostility, including sexual harassment. (Almost exactly two years ago, this same court illegally forbid the wearing of union items and was rebuffed.)
A couple weeks before the December holidays, the court's executive officer, Michael Yuen, sent an email to all employees saying that dress standards at the court had become “inappropriate,” and that according to court policy “[e]mployees must maintain a professional, business-like appearance…”
SEIU 1021 chapter officers quickly called for a “meet and confer” with management -- as required by their union contract -- to discuss the sudden new enforcement of an 18-year old policy.
“We are concerned not only with what the court considers ‘appropriate,’ but that there be a clear written policy so people know how to adhere to it and that there be a clear and consistent application of the policy and how violations are dealt with,” said Diane Williams, president of the San Francisco court chapter and a clerk at the Hall of Justice.
Management refused to meet, and the union filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board.
Crossing the line -
Court supervisors began enforcing the code with predictable inconsistency and arbitrariness. Individual supervisors made subjective decisions on what was appropriate and began sending workers home without pay. Union activists and people out of favor with particular supervisors were singled out, while others wearing nearly identical outfits were left alone.
Such 'enforcement' has opened the door to sexual harassment charges against the department. Jean Tualla (pictured), a courtroom clerk in the Criminal Dept. at the Hall of Justice, told the courthouse rally what had happened to her just weeks earlier, on Jan. 30.
After having her outfit approved by a female supervisor one day, a few days later she received an email summons that suggested she bring a shop steward. When they arrived -- Tualla was wearing the same outfit -- they were met by the same female supervisor and a male supervisor.
They gave her a "corrective action" memo to sign acknowledging she had been sent home for inappropriate attire on three previous days. When Tualla signed it and added a written statement that she didn't agree with the findings, the male supervisor asked her to stand up so he could see what she was wearing. Then he told her to turn around, as if he couldn't tell if her outfit was appropriate from the front. He told her it wouldn't do and sent her home without pay.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who attended the rally to support the workers -- and is also an attorney -- was stunned by Tualla’s story. “Basic sexual harassment law says you can’t do that,” he said. “We need to make sure the supervisor who did this is held accountable.”