I've been working in Iowa for a privately held company for over 4 years now as a salaried employee.

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have had a photo of my daughter at my desk. Our cubes / desks are in a quiet office where we work with software.

I was recently told by my manager to take down the picture, because employee's are not allowed to have them on their desk.

This is an unwritten rule, and various others throughout the company have pictures of their children at their desks.

What are my options, if any? How can I communicate effectively that I do not understand why I am being required to remove the picture?

  • 4
    Told by whom? Did you point out that other people have pictures on their desks? Jun 10, 2013 at 20:07
  • @kevincline Edited OP - my manager. I mentioned this and was told "they shouldnt"
    – Erked
    Jun 10, 2013 at 20:08
  • @JoeStrazzere Changed departments, different mgr who is more strict about unwritten policy. So it seems the answer is employers can enforce any request so long as it is somewhat within reason.
    – Erked
    Jun 10, 2013 at 20:24
  • 1
    Welcome to the Workplace Erked. Generally speaking, "Is there a law that...?" questions aren't the best fit for here. Rephrasing it to focus on your first question ("What are my options?") would make it a better fit and get you better responses.
    – jmac
    Jun 10, 2013 at 23:12
  • 3
    Why is this closed as too localized? While the specific situation here might apply to the OP, I have heard of similar things happening in many places. Voting to reopen.
    – enderland
    Jun 11, 2013 at 13:09

1 Answer 1


In general, employment in the United States is "at will". That means that barring a situation where an employer is violating some anti-discrimination law, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason. Unless the employer is doing something like allowing employees of one race/ gender/ religion to have photographs and barring others from doing so or the employer is creating rules just for you as a pretext to discriminate, it's well within the employer's rights to create stupid policies and to enforce them (even imperfectly).

Of course, most employers recognize that just because they can create stupid policies, that is no reason to go out and do so. Allowing employees to do a bit of personalization of their environment generally makes them happier and more productive and doesn't generally cost the employer anything. It may be worth asking your manager to explain why the policy exists and seeing if the policy can be changed. Perhaps there were problems in the past where employees were going crazy decorating their offices/ cubicles to the point that it was creating a fire hazard or infringing on their ability to get work done with decorations on every surface. If that's the case, the company should be willing to change the policy to allow a couple of family photos and other incidentals.

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