2-1 discussion: you be the arbitrator

Review the following scenario and determine how you would rule in this case if you were the arbitrator (decision maker). Explain the reasoning for your decision and tell the group if you think this is a relatively minor issue or a major issue.

Officer Clark Fischer was ordered by his police sergeant to remove an earring (ear stud) from his left ear while on duty. The police chief upheld the sergeant’s order. Officer Fischer complied with the order but grieved the issue with the local union. Officer Fischer alleged there was no written prohibition to the wearing of earrings by police officers in either the union contract (collective bargaining agreement) or in the rules by which the force operates. He pointed out, in fact, that the chief himself wore an earring in his off-duty hours.

Anticipating a “safety” argument, Fischer pointed out that officers wear clips, glasses, pins, name tags, and any number of items that present the same kinds of risk or more severe risks. The officer also argued that wearing an earring on duty gave him an advantage in his job when dealing with disenfranchised youth naturally hostile to a traditional police officer.

The city, in defending the “no earring” rule, argued that it was a safety issue because in a struggle the earring could pierce the officer’s skull, and the city believed an earring would generate more negative than positive reactions from most of the people the officer encountered.

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