Discipline | Employee reported for...eating a sandwich

Employee reported for...eating a sandwich

Particularly for those working in customer-facing roles, employees may be banned from drinking alcohol when wearing their work uniform as this sets an unprofessional tone to outsiders and may impact their ability to do their job properly.

Although staff might be off duty and have finished their shift but are still in uniform, most HR policies will set out guidelines for the dos and don’ts as employees are an ambassador for the brand as long as they are wearing their uniform.

However, one recent incident regarding work uniform and an out-of-work activity has sparked outrage on social media which has gone viral.

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An author tweeted a photo of a black Metro employee eating on the train in her work uniform and reported the employee to her boss – NBC News reports.

Author Natasha Tynes tweeted: "When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train.” The tweet, which has since been deleted, read: “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this, her response was, ‘worry about yourself.'"

The firm responded to Tynes in a tweet:

Immediate backlash

Numerous Twitter users expressed their frustrations at Tynes' tweet.

Professor Chanda Prescod-Weinstein from the University of New Hampshire wrote: “Eating while black.

“That’s literally someone’s life. That’s their job you’re messing with. She was eating. Trying to live. She was commuting."

Writer Roxane Gay also took to Twitter to voice her annoyance.

It has been reported that Tynes may lose her book deal as result of her tweet. She later took to Twitter before deactivating her account at the weekend: “I apologise for a tweet I posted earlier today, which I have since deleted. I am truly sorry.”

According to regulations posted on wmata.com – the official website for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority – passengers using the service aren’t permitted to eat, drink or smoke in the train’s carriages.

Why do employers enforce a work uniform?

  • Many employers view a work uniform as good promotion for a company. Employees wearing clothes that display corporate logos and brand colours help sell themselves in the business market.

  • It’s easy to recognise who does and doesn’t work for a company. Particularly for customers, locating help from a shop employee is made easy if an employee is wearing a uniform.

  • It is also better from a security perspective as it will quickly become obvious if someone is in a ‘staff only’ area and shouldn’t be.

  • Professionalism. Looking smart in a uniform positively represents the employer and can give off a good reputation to bystanders.

  • Dress codes may have health and safety reasons attached to them so adhering to dress codes in more crucial in some industries - for example, high vis jackets.

According to Acas, employers can be dismissed for not complying with the dress code. While this may be, the Metro employee was wearing her uniform correctly – it was the action of eating lunch in her uniform that caught the author’s attention. This may well have been a breach of their company values.

Can employees be sacked for conduct outside of work?

According to lawdonut.co.uk, employee activities outside of work – including those that result in criminal offences – aren’t grounds for dismissal unless it actually impacts an employee’s ability to do their job.

This could include affecting working relationships with clients or colleagues or bring the business into disrepute. To justify a dismissal, it must about to ‘some other substantial reason. The site doesn’t refer to employees eating lunch in uniform. To prevent incidents like the above from happening, employers should vocalise their values to employees to set the record straight.

How to make sure that company values stick, according to American Express:

  1. Make company values clear so that everyone understands them universally.

  2. Don’t be broad; turn values into specific operating principles.

  3. Make values “committable”.

  4. Seek employee feedback on the values.

  5. Use core values to empower employees.

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