A major pharmacy chain has changed its dress code following an incident in a North West London branch, when an Israeli customer felt intimidated by a “Palestine” pendant being worn by one of its employees.
“We are revising our dress code to include a clause that wearing any jewellery which could be seen as a political symbol at work is not permitted” Day Lewis wrote to UKLFI.
The customer was at Day Lewis pharmacy in North West London, having a ‘flu vaccination but noticed that the assistant preparing the vaccine for her was wearing a large pendant in the shape of a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories. However, the entire map was overwritten with the word “Palestine”.
As an Israeli, the customer felt upset and threatened by someone wearing a necklace that in effect eradicated her country . She felt that it was inappropriate for a member of staff serving the public to be making such an overt political statement by way of their jewellery. She voiced these feelings to the assistant, and asked to be injected by someone else.
The customer, who was very upset by the incident, subsequently contacted UKLFI, who wrote to Day Lewis, asking them to change their dress code.
UKLFI’s letter to Day Lewis pointed out that the pharmacy might be in breach of the Equality Act 2010, as a result of its employee wearing the pendant.
Under Section 25(1) of the Act,
“A person (A) harasses another (B) if—
(a) A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, and
(b) the conduct has the purpose or effect of—
(i) violating B’s dignity, or
(ii) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B”
The customer felt intimidated by the employee wearing the Palestine pendant, and this also created an offensive environment for her.
Section 29 (3) of the Act states
“A service-provider must not, in relation to the provision of the service, harass—
(a) a person requiring the service, or
(b) a person to whom the service-provider provides the service.”
Day Lewis Pharmacy investigated the complaint and said:
“Our investigation has concluded that, whilst wearing the necklace in question was somewhat naïve on part of the employee, it was not intended to provoke anyone, whether another employee or a customer. Our employee has been counselled about this and we are revising our dress code to include a clause that wearing any jewellery which could be seen as a political symbol at work is not permitted…..
“We will be instructing the employees in [the particular branch] and all our other branches not to wear any jewellery that could be seen as a political symbol whilst at work and this instruction will be included in our dress code moving forward”.
Day Lewis denied that it was in breach of the Equality Act.
Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI commented: “While private individuals are free to wear political symbols if they choose to do so, it is different if public facing employees do so, in the course of their work.
If shop staff wear divisive political jewellery or symbols on their clothing, this may well upset customers who do not agree with their political views, as seeing such symbols can be upsetting and indeed intimidating.
It is important that shops should have a clothing policy that prevents its staff from displaying such symbols, so they do not upset customers, and do not fall foul of Equality laws. We thank Day Lewis for changing their dress code, so that similar incidents will be prevented in future.”
The Israeli customer from the pharmacy commented: “I’m so thankful to UKLFI for being there for me and giving me the support when I felt intimidated and alone. They are the difference between being bullied into submission and fighting for what’s right. “