DHHR ban on blue jeans upheld

By John O'Brien | Jun 15, 2006

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha Circuit judge overturned a state Employees Grievance Board decision, giving the Department of Health and Human Resources the power to impose its dress code on its employees.

Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker filed an order staying the Grievance Board's conclusion that there was no rational basis for the dress code, which prevented employees from wearing blue jeans to work.

Senior Administrative Law Judge Janis I. Reynolds said that the DHHR "did not show rational basis between a legitimate business decision and the implementation of a dress code."

The DHHR maintained that it was trying to put forth a more professional atmosphere. Spokesman John Law said before the filing of the action in Circuit Court that "You don't have to wear a suit everyday, but we deal with folks often after they experience a trauma in their life. They're at their wit's end… and really having a tough time, and we want those people to see a professional in a setting that's also professional trying to help them. We're working towards that."

Law did not return phone calls for this story.

Senior Assistant Attorney General B. Allen Campbell filed the motion for stay and order, writing that the purpose of the dress code was "to establish a statewide expectation for employees that emphasizes professionalism and portrays a positive image of our state and our agency to the public."

Walker agreed, overturning the Level IV grievance, and 6,000 employees in all 55 counties have to obey.

The motion for stay and order was filed against 18 DHHR employees.

Law had said the department was either pursuing action in Circuit Court or a policy rewrite that would please both sides.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-AA-84

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