Buckeye Fans: Is a Red Shirt, Grey Pants Dress Code an Unlawful Anti-Union Policy?

In the early 2000’s the United Autoworkers (UAW) unions began trying to organize the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. Nearly 15 years later, it’s still trying. According to the UAW, “many” Nissan employees recently began wearing pro-union t-shirts and hats to work. In response the company changed its almost anything goes dress code to one that required employees wear a red polo shirt and grey pants; and if they needed a jacket, it too must be grey.

According to Nissan, this new policy “helps achieve the highest standards of safety and quality in all manufacturing facilities.” Employees have been able, and will continue to be able, to wear the clothing of their choice so long as it complies with the dress code. The UAW filed an unfair labor practice charge over this modified uniform policy alleging that the change was done as a direct result of employees wearing pro-union t-shirts and hats. The Board bought the argument and issued a complaint against Nissan.

While most uniform / dress code cases deal with a company allowing employees to wear buttons, t-shirts, and hats with logos, just not union logos, this one is different. Here, the company has denied all logos, even all colors outside of red for shirts and grey for pants. Nissan’s new dress code appears to be content neutral, but according to the Board, that isn’t enough to escape an allegation that it was implemented with an unlawful, anti-union motive.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at maustin@ralaw.com.