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Citing health study, California mayor wants to ban workplace necktie requirements for city employees

Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Californians aren't exactly known for their stuffy workplace attire. Even so, Lancaster, Calif., Mayor R. Rex Parris wants to forbid all city employers from requiring workers to don the enemy of the casual wardrobe: neckties.

At a council meeting this week, Parris asked the city attorney to look into whether such a policy is feasible.

The seemingly random proposal is a matter of public health, Parris said. Last week, the mayor came across a new study published in the journal Neuroradiology that suggests wearing neckties may lower blood flow to the brain, potentially curbing creativity and analytical thinking. The study contends that restricting circulation by such an amount -- 7.5 percent on average, according to the research -- could have fatal implications for someone with high blood pressure.

"I spend a lot of hours every week on an elliptical or a bike just to increase blood flow to my brain," Parris said, "and it turns out every morning when I put on a tie I'm diminishing it."

The mayor's proposal comes at a tenuous time for the tie.

The late Steve Jobs' iconic uniform of black turtleneck and blue jeans -- sans tie, of course -- inspired many a think piece, and a generation of techies followed suit (good luck spotting a tie on the Facebook campus). In 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidance on gender identity and gender expression protections, which clarified that employers who enforce policies that require men to wear ties or women to wear skirts could technically be violating the law.

JP Morgan introduced a business casual clothing policy in 2016. The next year, even the notoriously formal British Parliament dropped ties from its male dress code.

But the question of ties as a safety hazard has rarely entered the discussion.

Parris said he wants Lancaster employers to make wearing ties to work optional, at the very least. He likened the tie requirement to demanding women wear heels to work, characterizing it as an issue of compelled gender presentation.

"I don't think it's appropriate in America today to make anyone do something that is now known to be detrimental to your health," Parris said when reached by phone Wednesday. "Especially if it's based on gender."

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