Uniform U-turn | National Park Service bans employees from wearing agency uniforms at LGBTQ+ Pride events

National Park Service bans employees from wearing agency uniforms at LGBTQ+ Pride events

Park rangers and other employees of the National Park Service (NPS) will no longer be allowed to wear agency uniforms at LGBTQ+ Pride parades.

Previously, the NPS has permitted workers to march in their uniform at parades throughout June, which is Pride month in the US.

However, according to a directive issued by Frank Lands, Deputy Director at the NPS to nearly 20,000 employees, the agency will now prohibit employees from wearing their work uniforms at specific events.

Whilst Pride parades were not mentioned in the initial memo, a subsequent Q&A posted internally specified that such events were included in the list of settings where wearing the uniform will be banned, according to E&E News.

“I’ve asked our legal, ethics, and human resources teams to provide clearer language about what employees can and cannot do in their official capacity, on duty and in uniform,” Lands writes. He refers employees to the company’s policy on participation in uniform in events and activities outside of those organized by the NPS.

“NPS employees are prohibited from, “participating in or attending any demonstration or public event wherein the wearing of the uniform could be construed as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party,” the memo states.

Lands notes that the NPS is reviewing its official uniform policy and the information available to employees following a spike in the number of workers requesting to participate in events and activities in uniform, as well as adding adornments such as pins, ribbons, and buttons to their uniforms.

“Also, unless approved by the ADVRP, the only bureau-wide ornaments approved for regular wear include the NPS-issued badge, NPS-provided name bar, American flag pin (optional), and USNPS collar insignia (with dress uniform),” Lands adds.

The policy covers events organized through official NPS ‘Employee Organizations’ (EOs), including Employee Resource Groups, professional associations, and networking groups.   

The employee uniform conundrum

Many employers, like NPS, are attempting to navigate where, when, and how employees wear and adorn their uniform, particularly throughout Pride month and on politically divisive issues such as the Israel-Gaza war or Black Lives Matter.

Earlier this year, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled Home Depot broke labor law by asking employees to remove “Black Lives Matter” writing from their uniform, with an employee who refused to remove the initials subject to unlawful constructive dismissal.

Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, the rights of employees to wear items including buttons, pins, and other items displaying a message relating to “terms and conditions of employment, unionization, and other protected matters” is protected.

Looking for more

Other employers will make their own judgment on how to apply their uniform policies, both against efforts to promote equity and comply with labor laws, particularly amid the backdrop of politicized debates and the upcoming Pride month.

Lands’ memo argues that despite banning employees from wearing their uniform to events such as Pride parades, and from adorning their uniform with non-approved ornaments, the company values and supports the diversity of its workforce.

“While in uniform we represent the NPS and have a responsibility to balance our personal and professional lives,” he exerts. “You are a valued member of this organization and contribute to our workforce's diversity of identities, cultures, and experiences. It’s essential we apply our policies equitably, legally, and consistently.”

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