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US Flag Pin Gets Man Fired at FL Hotel

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on October 19, 2011 12:43 PM

A controversy is brewing in St. Augustine, Fla., where resident Sean May was fired over an American flag pin.

The front desk supervisor at Casa Monica Hotel had worn the lapel pin for two years. But last Thursday, he was told to take it off, as its presence violated company grooming policies.

May refused, and was sent home. He was later fired.

Local veterans groups are incredibly offended by these events, according to WJXT-TV. They believe that employee dress codes should leave room for American flag pins.

Casa Monica Hotel's policy did not, which is perfectly legal. The employee handbook clearly states, "No other buttons, badges, pins or insignias of any kind are permitted to be worn."

Employers have significant flexibility when writing a dress code. They can ban buttons and beards; require blazers or a uniform; and limit skirt lengths. These terms are legal as long as they are not discriminatory. Employers must generally also make religious accommodations, such as allowing headscarves.

None of these exceptions apply to Sean May, as political and patriotic beliefs are not protected in an employment environment.

However, there may still be an exception to these dress code rules.

Sean May was fired over an American flag pin that he had worn for two years. Because Casa Monica Hotel did not enforce its dress code, it may have given up the right to suddenly do so. Many courts will only side with employee handbooks if they have been consistently and evenly applied over the course of employment.

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