The decision by a Sudbury company to enforce its clean-shaven policy was not a violation of an employee’s right to free gender expression, it has been found.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario recently ruled Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations did not discriminate on the basis of gender when it required an employee to shave off a moustache and goatee in line with a facial hair policy.
The Sudbury Star
reported yesterday that adjudicator Mark Hart found the right to gender identity and expression did not extend to men growing beards.
Christopher Browne, an employee in the company’s smelter division who had worked for the company for 19 years, filed the application in April 2014 after the company informed him the clean-shaven policy would be strictly enforced.
Browne had been growing a moustache and goatee since October 2012 in support of Movember, saying that his motivation was to support those who suffer from prostate cancer after experiencing its impact on his relatives.
However, as part of his role, Browne was required to be fitted with an approved respirator mask for health and safety reasons, and the company’s clean-shaven policy was designed to ensure facial hair did not interfere with these masks.
Browne testified that a resulting disagreement led to threats of discipline from his employer, and he eventually agreed to shave off the offending facial hair. However, he continued to maintain this was a violation of his human rights.
The Human Rights Tribunal decision referred to a previous dispute between Canada Safeway and its union over that company’s no-beards policy, which was resolved when the Manitoba Court of Appeal found against the union.
Hart wrote in his recent decision that the Code’s gender expression clause, designed to protect transgender and other gender non-conforming persons when it was added in 2012, did not extend to men wanting to grow beards.
Hart wrote bearded men do not "suffer any particular social, economic, political or historical disadvantage in Canadian or Ontario society, absent from any connection between the wearing of a beard and matters of religious observance.”