Sweetwater mayor: Limited piercings and no facial hair for city employees

07/17/2014 3:11 PM

07/17/2014 3:12 PM

A memo sent out from Sweetwater’s mayor doesn’t permit city employees to wear facial piercings, while men must be clean-shaven.

Mayor Jose Diaz distributed a memo to city employees July 2, laying new work rules. The memo states that female city employees are to have no more than two piercings, one per ear. There are no facial or any other types of exposed piercings allowed. In addition, male employees aren’t allowed any piercings and must be clean-shaven.

Yet, Commissioner Orlando Lopez, who in the most recent commission meeting wore an ear piercing in protest to the rule, says the new guidelines are a violation and target one employee he wouldn’t mention by name. Lopez has stated he will be running for the mayor seat next year.

“I believe that the memo violates employee’s civil rights, specifically the freedom amendment right of expression,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The mayor has consistently acted without the consent and authorization of the Commission. And on many instances, has not performed the desire of the Commission.”

However, Mayor Jose Diaz says he believes it doesn’t violate any rules.

“There’s nothing that we violate civil rights or preference,” he said. “If they want to stitch their forehead outside of work I don’t care, but as leaders of this community we should portray ourselves in parameters that represent the values and core of our beliefs.”

In a letter to respond to Lopez’s questions about the new rules, City Attorney Ralph Ventura wrote that the issue is up to the mayor and City Commission.

“The key question then is the exact nature of the governmental interest that would substantially justify the limitations imposed by any new dress code,” he wrote. “This matter would be a policy decision and as such lies outside the scope of this legal opinion and should be addressed specifically by the City Commission and the mayor.”

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