Beards have been the question in employment law lately, and
it's not good news for those hipsters who wish to express their
inner Viking and let their facial hair grow free.
The Victorian Supreme Court recently ruled Victorian police
officers need to shave off beards, goatees, drooping moustaches and
mutton chops, or leave the force. A senior constable had challenged
a 2012 order that banned police officers from having long hair,
goatees or beards on the grounds it was discrimination in the
The court ruled in favour of the Police Commissioner, saying he
had the power to override anti-discrimination law and could
determine grooming standards for police officers.
One would hope there's an exemption for undercover cops. Try
infiltrating a bikie gang in short back and sides. The Commissioner
needs to be wary about applying the no-beard rule to Muslim or Sikh
police officers who have religious reasons for being bearded. He
could be in breach of the Equal Opportunity Act.
The Fair Work Commission recently upheld a decision by BHP to
pressure a mining truck driver to leave after he repeatedly refused
directions to shave off his beard. BHP said it was a safety issue
as all employees need to be able to wear face mask respirators. The
Commission agreed with BHP, saying the company policy was clear and
the worker was given the choice to shave or leave.
Employment law specialist Nathan Luke of Stacks Law Firm said
another recent case demonstrates employers need to be clear on
their policy regarding beards and staff appearance.
A delivery driver sacked for turning up with a half-shaved beard
was recently awarded $6,000 by the Fair Work Commission for unfair
dismissal. The Commission ruled the employer had not stipulated the
standard of appearance required and had failed to provide the
worker with a reason for his dismissal.
"Employers need to be clear and spell out to employees the
standard of appearance and conduct that is expected from them, and
then they need to give them a chance to change their behaviour or
pick up their standard of appearance," Mr Luke said.
"If employers are not sure of what to do they should seek
legal advice from an employment law specialist. It can be important
to know what the legal position is if an employee has refused to
comply with a reasonable direction.
"Equally, employees who feel they have been unfairly
treated should find out their legal position from a specialist in
Mr Luke said it was important to act quickly as the legal risk
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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