I might always remember this one day at work, which started out like any other. I was sitting outside of my work place reading a book and drinking a cup of coffee in the area where fellow associates came out before and after their shift and on breaks to converse with one another and smoke cigarettes.
The crowd around me became too rowdy, so I dog-eared my current page and set it in my pack. As I stood up to converse with some of my co-workers, sipping on my cup of Italian Roast, out came one of my supervisors from the building, which had just come from our general manager’s office. As he lit up his menthol cigarette, he told me something I never thought I would hear coming out of any person’s mouth.
“Um…Travis,” he began, taking a drag. “I just came from Mary (name changed)’s office and she told me that you either need to turn your shirt inside out or go home to change.”
Naturally, I gave him a look and was especially humiliated that I was told this amongst a group of my peers. Luckily, I had just bought Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero at Hot Topic that morning and it came with a deeply discounted tee shirt, which was in my bag. Accordingly, I went into the men’s room, seething inside, changed shirts and stuffed the offending one in my bag.
And what shirt was it that drove my boss bonkers? It was my red shirt with a cross, a snippet of a Psalm and the saying, “Jesus offers you his protection,” which I picked up at a local Christian media and tee shirt shop. Not to mention, I have garnered several dirty looks for my sterling silver crucifix I wear proudly around my neck from fellow workers and supervisors alike and even, at one point, made a habit of tucking it inside my shirt out of view.
Now, I am not trying to insinuate that this workplace discriminates against Christians; even considering that people of my faith have been known to receive ridicule from Wiccans, Atheists and even the company’s open Satanists and nothing is ever done about it.
Anyways, there is only one issue, in particular, which I am shining light on; the idea that companies should really take a look at how their employees interpret “casual” attire. On this company’s dress code sheet, which is posted all over the building, the common-sense things are outlawed; extremely short skirts, holey jeans, spaghetti-strap shirts, shorts, pajama pants, cleavage shirts and other sexually-provocative or revealing attire.
On the other hand, one more thing is included, which is ultimately ambiguous; “no clothing with offensive images or sayings.” Says who? The majority of the general population, or basically whatever the higher-ups at that particular company happen to find okay or objectionable, based on their own personal opinions? The boss of this company, at least this branch, just happened to be agnostic, atheist, or some other religion off of the traditional faith radar. Regardless, I find it troublesome that this provision isn’t a little more specific.
The major kicker is not in the fact that I got in trouble for wearing a Christian tee shirt to work and ultimately offended my boss. It is, rather, what images and sayings on tee shirts I have seen fellow co-workers don in my nearly three years with the company. As I mentioned, several of the employees at this company had a great love affair with the reefer. Many of these people come to work wearing necklaces with cannabis leaf pendants, as well as hats and bandannas touting several images of the plant. Other employees, on a regular basis, will don shirts with sayings such as, “It’s 4:20 am; do you know where your bong is,” “Don’t fear the reefer,” “Reefer University,” “Legalize it,” and “Keep smoking,” amongst others.
Some minors working for the company, well below the legal drinking age, arrive to work donning shirts advertising beer and hard liquors. I’ve even seen someone donning ‘humor’ and concert shirts declaring things such as “Your mom has got it going on,” “Jesus is coming; hide the porn,” “F**k the f**k off” and, my personal favorite, “Jesus is a c**t.”
Oddly enough, nobody at the company, at least where it mattered, found any such sayings in constitution of a clothing change. But then, a shirt I picked up from a Bible bookstore that advertises my choice in religion in a non-pushy way ignites outrage and does warrant a shift in wardrobe. Is it just me, or is that just a little bit crazy?
I no longer work for the company. Upon this step, in light of finding a better-paying job for a bigger company with better pay and a much better reputation, I consulted some close friends and now intend to draft a letter to my former employer’s corporate office to bring this injustice to their attention. Even if nothing is done, nor if I ever receive a response back, I at least hope to hit a nerve.