Teenager told he can't work at Six Flags Splashtown because of earrings

Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2019 8:54 AM | Contributed by Jeff

A 16-year-old boy working as a lifeguard at Six Flags Splashtown was told not to return to work after getting his ears pierced. The boy says the HR person indicated that only female employees could have earrings.

Read more from WOAI/San Antonio.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 9:07 AM

I'm waiting for someone to challenge this in court, but no one making minimum wage is going to do that. It seems like an arbitrary cultural standard to me. Dudes like to feel pretty, too. I'm pretty sure that Universal Orlando let this go a long time ago.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 10:08 AM

"To be honest with you, I don't even like earrings on males, but my son wanted his ears pierced and I told him bottom line I'm going to fight that because its not right," Kelly said.

I like this mom. The rules are the rules but the rules are dumb and should be changed.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 12:05 PM

Meh. It’s a private employer. I don’t particularly care either way, but I think Six Flags has a right to enforce grooming an appearance standards.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 12:06 PM

A few years ago, I interviewed for a job at a nursing home. I went in with my earrings, but I questioned if I would have to remove them when I worked. The answer surprised me. The interviewer laughed and told me that some of the male resident's have earrings, and it would not be a problem.

So, I take from that experience that it has been normal for males to have earrings for so long that some elderly people have them.

This tells me that a policy like Six Flags has here is outdated. However, if this is what the company wants from their employees, I'm not totally against it.

There are certain kinds of people that some businesses look for to represent their image in certain ways, even if it isn't written in policy. You have to fit the mold of what your employer deems as someone who looks like the company. I'm not saying it's right.

Hot Topic hires younger people with punk rock hair. My doctor hires people with well groomed, clean looks to work at the reception desk. The people who work at the gym are physically fit. These businesses are trying to portray an image and attract a certain clientele.

But a Six Flags... A young man with earrings kind of goes with their image. They are the entertainment business. Unless one is playing a character who doesn't wear earrings, I think that image works for an amusement park company, especially in this day and time. A lot of their clientele are young people, and a lot of their male customers have earrings.

If they want their image to be traditional, it''s their prerogative, but I don't like it at all.

Last edited by LostKause, Wednesday, June 19, 2019 12:09 PM
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 12:45 PM

Yeah, maybe my argument is more that it's dumb and not important. If this kid can pull a drowning person out of a pool and can generally interact with people in a positive way, they're not doing themselves any favors.

Believe it or not, it's parenthood that gets me thinking this way. You meet enough people in life of diverse cultures, races, sexuality, etc., you start to realize that you don't want your kid to look at anyone negatively for who they are. We were talking about wearing dresses with my boy, and I was making a joke about wishing I could wear a dress because it would be comfortable, and his reaction was, "Ew! Dresses are for girls!" Then I think about trans people I know, or men in kilts even, and I realize that I have to teach him that his reaction is not really OK, but not unexpected because of the arbitrary cultural expectations that he's learned.

Also, I didn't think dudes with earrings has been controversial in over 20 years.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 1:20 PM

ApolloAndy said:

Meh. It’s a private employer. I don’t particularly care either way, but I think Six Flags has a right to enforce grooming an appearance standards.

Same.

I think of it like any other free market issue.

If they have enough problem staffing due to their policies, those policies will change. (just like not paying people enough, or offering poor product or pricing or whatever)

If you don't like their dress code, don't work there.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:20 PM

It can be both completely legal *and* dumb.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:21 PM

It's interesting to see the variation in grooming and appearance standards at different parks. Six Flags employees cannot have visible tattoos (neither can flight attendants on most airlines) and presumably this is because the chain wants to project a wholesome image. However, I saw tattooed employees at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and don't think this indicates that the image they're trying to project is any less wholesome; one park is simply more flexible than the other and it's all arbitrary.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:28 PM

Yeah, but can they wear their own sunglasses?

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 2:53 PM

Businesses make a lot of legal decisions every day that I view as dumb. Can't get too worked up about any of them unless they impact me. Only way business will change is if attendance suffers and its proven to be tied to the policy. Not sure how many people will pick water parks based on which employees can wear earrings.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 3:42 PM

ApolloAndy said:

Meh. It’s a private employer. I don’t particularly care either way, but I think Six Flags has a right to enforce grooming an appearance standards.

Private employers still have to make sure the standards they set aren't discriminatory. Not saying this is, but to throw your hands up and say "private employers doin' private employer things" only works until your workplace does something wrong to you.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 6:02 PM

yawetag said:

ApolloAndy said:

Meh. It’s a private employer. I don’t particularly care either way, but I think Six Flags has a right to enforce grooming an appearance standards.

Private employers still have to make sure the standards they set aren't discriminatory. Not saying this is, but to throw your hands up and say "private employers doin' private employer things" only works until your workplace does something wrong to you.

Private employers are bound by EEOC laws. They can’t treat you a certain way if you’re part of a protected class. Earrings on guys does not make one a protected class. These are the only Federally protected classes:Race.Color.Religion or creed.National origin or ancestry.Sex.Age.Physical or mental disability.Veteran status.Genetic information.Citizenship.That’s it.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 6:24 PM

Remember, kids. Only you know when you can play the victim card.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmvt7yFTtt8

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019 11:59 PM

Agreed it's within Six Flags right to not want male employees with earrings.

Also agreed that it's a pretty stupid cutoff. I mean, c'mon, I'm pushing 50 and *I* had an earring when I was younger. Might still have it if it weren't for Steel Phantom (the short version is I took it out before getting on the ride, and forgot to put it back in. Realized like a month later, and the hole had closed enough that it was hurting to put it back in. This in spite of having had the damn thing for a few years at that point. Decided I wasn't THAT attached to it after all and let it go. If you know where to look you can still see the little dimple where it was...)

Last edited by GregLeg, Thursday, June 20, 2019 12:00 AM
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Thursday, June 20, 2019 1:46 AM

As a passholder, every so often Six Flags Magic Mountain sends me research surveys about different topics, (Ride names, restaurant logos, etc.) They once sent me a survey in which they were asking for opinions on relaxed dress code standards for male employees. Namely neatly trimmed beards, visible tattoos, etc.

To be fair, I don't remember if the survey asked about earrings.

My responses generally indicated that it was fine by me. I assumed this meant they were relaxing the policies. Of course, California and Texas are two totally different places.

Last edited by Tommytheduck, Thursday, June 20, 2019 1:47 AM
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Thursday, June 20, 2019 7:27 AM

Tekwardo said:

Earrings on guys does not make one a protected class.

It could when that policy is based on the employee's sex.

From EEOC's website (https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sex.cfm): Sex discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person's sex.

The argument is there. This employee was treated unfavorably because of his sex. Not because he was wearing an earring, but because he was a male wearing an earring. If Six Flags doesn't want males wearing earrings, then they have to equally apply it to females.

As I said earlier, though, this may not be specifically illegal. But, as Jeff said, it's because no one has challenged it yet.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019 8:50 AM

Yes, there are discussions in HR circles about the topic, because it will eventually come out as a gender discrimination issue. For now, because it hasn't been challenged in court (that I'm aware of), the apparent approach is to use caution, be ready to change your policy. The other grooming standards that come up are not gender specific. So yes, you can prohibit face tattoos, and it's your right as a business to do that, but you can't pick which gender it applies to.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019 9:57 AM

If the policy is no earrings - it's not gender discrimination.

If the policy is no earrings on men - it technically is gender discrimination. In no way, shape, or form is it the type of gender discrimination that has plagued women in the workplace in all of history. But as a technicality, I believe it would fall under the definition.

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Thursday, June 20, 2019 10:01 AM

They’re not being treated unfairly because of their sex. They simply have to comply with a policy that the company has.

He was not fired because he was a man.

He was fired because he’s a man wearing earrings and was given the choice to take them out and chose not to.

Also, gender identity, sexuality, orientation? Those are not federally protected by the EEOC. You can still be legally fired from your job for being LGBTQ+.

And it is legal to have gender specific dress codes. As long as it is not enforced arbitrarily, and they don’t allow any men to wear earrings. It’s not that it hasn’t been challenged, either, as it has come up in transgender cases

Last edited by Tekwardo, Thursday, June 20, 2019 11:07 AM
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