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I work with 30 colleagues in a grocery store. Our management wants us to start wearing shared company-provided aprons, which wrap around the neck. Many of my coworkers including myself, find this dirty. Not all of my coworkers care about their hygiene equally. Some of them have unhygienic hair or strong body odors. The aprons will be washed only when needed.

I don't agree with this. My coworkers and I would like to refuse to wear these aprons on the grounds that they are unhygienic. Do we have the option of refusing or are we simply forced to wear the aprons if we want to work here?

closed as off-topic by Dukeling, Masked Man, gnat, scaaahu, David K Feb 20 '18 at 13:43

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  • 7
    " Can we refuse to wear them for those reasons or not?" Yes. You can even refuse to wear it for no reason at all. However, another important question to ponder: "Can your employer fire you for refusing to wear the apron?" Maybe or maybe not. Depends on the local laws, in other words, you need to specify your location. – Masked Man Feb 17 '18 at 7:16
  • How many aprons are there for the thirty women? – A. I. Breveleri Feb 17 '18 at 7:30
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    Is it possible that you take/keep the apron outside of the workplace? I mean, taking it home and washing it yourself anytime it's needed? – OldPadawan Feb 17 '18 at 8:22
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    "We are promoting knives for Master Chef Canada." Chefs own the knives they use and carry them to work. They do not trust anyone else to sharpen, clean, and polish them. No Chef ever touches another Chef's knife much less asks to borrow it. - You cannot possibly promote something called "Master Chef's Knives" while wearing a filthy shared apron. – A. I. Breveleri Feb 18 '18 at 10:55
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    Can't bring your own apron? – overloading Feb 19 '18 at 16:55
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Can we refuse to wear them for those reasons or not?

You can... and either:

  • nothing happens...
  • you never get promoted.
  • you can be fired.

I would not throw in my manager's face an out-of-the-blue plain NO. I'd rather explain why it could be better to do it another way. For instance:

Hi Alice/Bob, I noticed that our aprons are not always crisp and tidy. It's not only bad hygiene for our customers and us (employees), but also a bad image for our company. Could we be assigned the same apron at all time, so we take care of it? If not, do you think, for the ones who are willing to do so, that we could take/keep the apron outside of the workplace? Like taking it home, washing and ironing it by ourself anytime it's needed?

This way, you deflect: no one is accused of anything, and you show your concern about the customers, the company, and your colleagues. You don't complain, you offer a solution.

From there, it will depend on your manager's answer, and we can't tell you right now...

  • We are promoting knives for Master Chef Canada. We have the panflet right at our tills which display the cost and the points you can use towards them. The panflets are at the tills, which the cashier can explain how it works. I have 30 woman that work underneath me and they are livid about the whole situation, including myself. – B Larson Feb 17 '18 at 18:18
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    Hm, I would be careful to offer to wash the aprons myself - that should be the shop's responsibility. If you only have one or two per person, you may need to wash them almost every day, which can be a lot of work - so I'd rather ask for them to be cleaned more frequently, and assigned to employees, than offer to do it myself without compensation. – sleske Feb 20 '18 at 8:07
  • @sleske It is widely accepted and often expected, in the US at least, for employees to care for their own uniform. – Johns-305 Feb 28 '18 at 18:46
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You can refuse to do anything you want at work, but that can be career limiting.

Take your concerns to your supervisor before outright defiance and move forwards from their solution or lack of solution.

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Can we refuse to wear them for those reasons or not?

In most companies, you cannot refuse to wear the uniform or promotional costume and still keep your job. You could ask, but it's doubtful.

They will be washed only when needed. I don't agree with this.

If it were me, I'd consider asking if I could take one home each night to wash and wear it the next day.

And if that worked out, I'd then ask management if they would consider purchasing an additional apron for me so that I wouldn't have to wash it every night.

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    Not sure I'd say it's uniform but more a promotional costume. As far as I understand they are only wearing it to promote the item on sale. Similar, but different in my eyes – Draken Feb 19 '18 at 16:10

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