Job loss suit over ‘not visible’ tongue stud settled

Friday October 06, 2000

The Associated Press 


LOS ANGELES — Refusal to remove a pea-sized, flesh-colored stud on her tongue cost Mary Haudenshield her job. Now her former employer must swallow the cost of a legal settlement. 

Haudenshield has accepted an offer of reinstatement in the apartment-leasing job, along with the equivalent of six weeks of paid vacation and a company turnabout on what may be considered appropriate in the workplace. 

“Everything has been made right. The most important thing was to get my job back,” the 29-year-old said Wednesday.  

She was fired Sept. 14, after showing the stud to some co-workers.  

The settlement offer came shortly after the lawsuit was filed last week. 

She will be paid from the date of the firing until she returns to work Nov. 1, said her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who receives attorney fees as part of the settlement.  

Haudenshield also gets to stay in a $1,380-a-month apartment owned by her employer of 61/2 years, paying the employee rate of less than half the normal rent. 

Haudenshield said her job performance, her outward appearance and her speech weren’t affected while wearing the stud, and it’s not visible unless she sticks out her tongue. 

But a memo from her supervisor at R&B Realty Group (a division of Oakwood Worldwide) provided by Haudenshield said:  

“Confirming our prior conversation, this memo is to confirm that a pierced tongue is not considered professional in appearance in accordance with Oakwood Worldwide dress code policy.  

“If you continue to choose not to remove it during working hours, your employment will be considered terminated immediately.” She was fired the same day. 

In a letter to Haudenshield after she filed suit, an Oakwood personnel official said: “Although we have policies that place a high degree of emphasis on professional demeanor, we must also recognize that individuals may have different and changing views about what is appropriate in the workplace.” 

“I feel good knowing that my experience may help other workers stand up for their rights when they have been violated,” Haudenshield said Wednesday. 

Haudenshield said she decided to wear a tongue stud because “it symbolized an important point in my life and was something important to me concerning my values and goals.”