Secretaries blue about jeans

May 22, 2003, midnight | By Izaak Orlansky | 18 years, 12 months ago

Six Blair office secretaries were denied the right to wear jeans in an arbritration hearing after they filed a grievance against Principal Phillip Gainous. The Supporting Service Employees International Union (MCCSSE), which represents the secretaries, plans to appeal the May 9 decision.

The denial was based on an Apr 25 hearing between MCCSSE representative Lewie Anderson and an official from the MCPS Department of Association Relations.

A written answer to the secretaries cited several reasons for denying the grievance but focused on the Union not filing the request on time.

Grievances may be filed with MCPS no more than 15 days after an incident, according to Donald Kopp, director of the MCPS Department of Association Relations. Since the secretaries first filed a grievance against Gainous on Jan 30, MCCSSE had until mid-February to take the grievance to the next level.

The current policy of not allowing secretaries to wear jeans to work prompted the complaint. The secretaries are asking to be treated like teachers, who are able to wear jeans in school. "We're disappointed. We still feel we're being discriminated against," said a secretary who wished to remain anonymous.

Gainous said he does not want secretaries to wear jeans because they are the "greeters of the public" and therefore should look "professional." He added that teachers should be wearing casual clothes only when they are not interacting with students or guests.

Gainous said he has seen teachers wearing jeans to school and has spoken to some teachers individually about their dress.

In a survey distributed in February to all faculty members, 40 percent of respondents reported wearing jeans to school one or more times per week; those who wear jeans to school do so on an average of two days per week.

Business Manager Anne Alban, who oversees the secretaries, said she would prefer one dress code for all employees. "The [teachers] are a bit casual, and it sends an inconsistent message," she said.

The secretaries originally asked for the right to wear jeans on any day but said they attempted to compromise with Gainous by requesting to wear black jeans only on Fridays. The secretaries filed a formal grievance in January after he refused.

According to Assistant Principal Richard Wilson, Gainous has been clear and open about teacher dress. "He expects us to look professional," said Wilson. "I think there is a fair amount of latitude [in the dress code]."

Anderson said he "wasn't surprised" by the decision to take the case to the third and final level of the grievance process. As for the time constraint, Anderson said that MCCSSE had a large caseload in January.

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Izaak Orlansky. Izaak Orlansky is a senior in the Communications Arts Program. His hobbies include cross-country running, swimming, and singing in the spring musical. Izaak is also a big fan of the Yankees, and likes playing with big fluffy dogs. More »

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