Loose-fitting clothes and food machinery

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2008

Industrial safety specialists have long warned of the hazards of letting employees wear baggy garments around assembly-line machinery, hence the snug uniform, including pants, prescribed for both sexes by Mission Foods at its tortilla-making plant in New Brighton, Minn. Fatuma Hassan, an employee of Somali descent, claims it’s religious discrimination not to let her wear traditional garb. Thanks in part to activist groups eager to provide backup, Minnesota has become a flashpoint for Muslim employees’ demands for religious accommodation on the job: the cab drivers who refused to transport arriving airline passengers carrying duty-free alcohol and the Target cashiers who declined to scan pork apparently never made it to court, but complainants in the state filed 45 other cases with the EEOC last year. A class action is in progress against circuit-board maker Celestica on behalf of 22 employees, many of whom “were fired or suspended for taking unauthorized breaks at sunset. The changing Islamic prayer schedule was a key reason.” (“Cultural traditions can lead to conflict on the job”, AP/Rochester (Minn.) Post-Bulletin, Jun. 17)(via Michelle Malkin).

{ 1 trackback }

Claim: Abercrombie wouldn’t hire hijab wearer
08.03.08 at 11:28 pm

{ 14 comments }

1 Bill Poser 06.18.08 at 2:43 am

It’s lucky that Ms. Hassan works at a food products company. Otherwise, she might be able to argue that she has a right to assume the additional risk posed by loose clothing. In a food products company, that argument presumably won’t work since the company has a very strong interest in not contaminating its products with bits of Ms. Hassan.

2 Bob Neal 06.18.08 at 8:17 am

There’s no assumption of risk allowed under OSHA. She wears inappropriate clothing and is allowed to operate machinery, the employer gets hit with a “serious” violation (which OSHA these days attempts to bootstrap with other violations of multi-unit employers). As is usually the case in employment law, the employer is in a no win.

3 jbd 06.18.08 at 8:38 am

I lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul for 9 years. Great place to live, if you can stand the winters.

But there is a longstanding lunatic fringe, hard-left faction that keeps politics, well, interesting and unpredictable. There’s a strong, religious right element there too, which I don’t much care for either.

Frankly, I think this explains the election of Jesse Venture, which the rest of the country found inexplicable. Ventura basically ran on a libertarian platform, and people found that refreshing in contrast to the busybodies of the left and right. Once elected, Jesse didn’t do too well, though.

4 Anonymous Attorney 06.18.08 at 9:37 am

You can have diversity, or you can have freedom, but you can’t have both.

5 john 06.18.08 at 10:20 am

You can have homogeneity or you can have tyranny.

Makes about as much sense.

6 Deoxy 06.18.08 at 10:52 am

You can have diversity, or you can have freedom, but you can’t have both.

@john – by “diversity”, he’s referring to government-enforced “diversity”, where the government comes in and MAKES you do certain things. That’s not freedom.

Normal diversity, where different people do different things, is fine, of course.

7 Bill Poser 06.18.08 at 11:36 am

Bob Neal,

“There’s no assumption of risk allowed under OSHA”

Yes, I know that, but there have been cases in which plaintiffs argued that they should be allowed to. I can’t come up with the cite offhand, but there was a case a while back in which a company was sued because it refused to allow women of child-bearing age to work in positions in which they would be exposed to chemicals that might cause birth defects. The women were of the view that it should be their choice.

8 Ted Frank 06.18.08 at 11:42 am

UAW v. Johnson Controls, 499 US 187 (1991).

9 Bob Neal 06.18.08 at 2:26 pm

There was another, more recent case I believe and the issue was ADA and the “harm to self” question (Chevron USA v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73 (2002).

10 john 06.18.08 at 11:02 pm

Deoxy,
Thanks for the “explanation”. I’m sure that I couldn’t have figured out what he meant.
EVERY law is a restriction of freedom. So, another way to put his statement is:
“You can laws or you can have anarchy.”

Seems obvious to me.

11 Deoxy 06.19.08 at 11:31 am

OK, john, I’ll try one more time, since I still left that other a touch open-ended.

“he’s referring to government-enforced “diversity”, where the government comes in and MAKES you do certain things.”

“Certain things” like these:

-hire who they say you must hire
-not fire who they say you must not fire
-not say things they don’t want you to say
-say things they do want you to say

All of this in supposedly “private” business. That’s not freedom.

Freedom does not mean “anarchy” (necessarily). Many laws are to protect you and your stuff from harm from other people’s actions (and no, speech generally does not count as harm, nor is denying someone a job with you).

The laws in question are to make you give stuff you don’t want to to other people, or to control what you say (and, as best they can, what you think).

These are not the purposes of a government of a free country. Equating freedom with anarchy is a strawman.

“EVERY law is a restriction of freedom.” OK, how would you argue that a law demanding complete slavery from all citizens is bad? After all, EVERY law restricts freedom, right, so what’s so bad about this particular law? That’s corner you’ve painted yourself into.

12 john 06.19.08 at 2:24 pm

Deoxy, YOU misunderstand ME. I’m not arguing that EVERY law is EITHER good or bad, just that they all RESTRICT FREEDOM in some way.

And the distinction between “private” and “public” business isn’t as bright as you seem to imply. It changes over time, right? Like slavery.

The challenge is determining which laws restrict us in the least inappropriate way, and to the least degree. I’m mostly on your side here, but the original statement is argument by bumpersticker, and I thought I would make a funny out of it. That you took it seriously, is even funnier.

13 Deoxy 06.20.08 at 10:43 am

Ah, and see, the real disagreement between us, then, is that I believe some laws INCREASE freedom.

Laws that make slavery illegal? Increasing freedom.

Laws that guarantee my right not to be beaten up by random passers-by? Increasing freedom.

Sure, some freedoms are curtailed by those laws (the “freedom” to beat people up or enslave them against their will)… but if you bother to define “freedom”, and then look at history, you will find that some laws increase freedom and some laws descrease freedom.

And the distinction between “private” and “public” business isn’t as bright as you seem to imply.

In a few cases, where private business contracts exclusively with government, sure. In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases, it is absolutely blindingly bright: whose name is on the title? The government, or me? If it’s me, it’s mine, and the government should sod off.

Not understanding the disinction leads to all kinds of problems, such as eventually a loss of the distinction. Not HAVING the distinction is socialism.

14 gitarcarver 06.20.08 at 8:00 pm

Ah, and see, the real disagreement between us, then, is that I believe some laws INCREASE freedom.

Welcome to the hairsplitters convertion.

I am going to disagree with you as I don’t think that your point is demonstrated by the two examples you list.

Freedom was not enhanced or advanced by anti-slavery laws. Wherever there was slavery there were laws allowing it. We have come to understand that slavery laws were contrary to the rights of man. It can be argued that the laws outlawing slavery extended or “increased” freedom, but yet all they did was re-state and re-emphasize rights that were already in place and should not have been subject to governmental restriction to begin with.

After the 13th Amendment was passed, “law enforcement” used the Amendment to search property, enter homes without warrants, etc simply on the basis that they were “looking for slaves.” I put forth that a law that actually restates men’s rights, but in the process allows abuse of other laws and freedoms does not enhance freedom at all but restricts it.

The same can be said of your “laws that guarantee my right not to be beaten up by random passers-by” arguement. Even you admit that they “guarantee your right.” A law that guarantees a right does not expand or enhance freedom – it only states the right which should not be abridged to begin with. It keeps the “bar” at the same height. It does not raise it.

However, it can be argued that such laws give the government the ability to meddle in peaceful gatherings where no one is being threatened or held against their will. If it appears that something is “wrong,” the police will sometimes use the law that you say “increases freedom” to trample on other rights of men and women.

In the long run, laws restrict freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.