UK Worker Sues For Being "Tied" Down

February 24, 2003 ( - A civil servant in the United Kingdom has sued for sexual discrimination after being forced to wear a tie to work.

The new dress code came into effect last year at the Department of Work and Pension’s employment office Jobcentre Plus.   However, the way Matthew Thompson sees it when he complained to an employment tribunal in Manchester about the new dress code, “I seldom come into contact with the public. My duties are post-sorting, distributing computer printouts, photocopying and issuing documents internally and through the post to customers,” according to an Associated Press story.

Further, “women are not required to wear any specified items of clothing. The dress standard makes no sense. Why should I be threatened with the sack if I do not wear a tie?” Thompson continued.

The Department for Work and Pensions defended its dress code, saying it was part of a drive to provide improved services to the public. Since the staff routinely gives advice to jobseekers on how to dress for an interview, the department found it necessary they be appropriately dressed themselves.

However, Thompson’s case is not alone. The Public and Commercial Services Union said it has thrown its weight behind this, and the other 39 such suits waiting to be heard.   According to Union spokesman David Burke, workers at Jobcentre Plus faced fines of up to 10% of their salaries as well as dismissal for refusing to conform to the dress code.   Burke calls these practices “draconian and unreasonable.”