Employers should be particularly alert to the provisions of OHS Acts in considering actions taken by workers outside of the usual lines of reporting at the workplace where unsafe work conditions are alleged. The OHS Acts of each province in Atlantic Canada imbue workers with specific rights related to workplace safety.
While employers may believe that they have a broad right to regulate what employees wear in the workplace, this is not the case. The question of what requirements an employer can impose on an employee’s appearance can actually be quite complex because the imposition of dress codes create a tension between an employee’s right to look the way they want and the employer’s business interest in regulating appearances. Unless an employer can provide an objective explanation of why the dress code is necessary, arbitrators typically find in favour of employees’ interests in self-expression.