Our library is considering a name tag policy as part of our focus on patron service. What are the legal "do's" and "don'ts" of an employee name tag policy?
When it comes to the legal considerations of employee name tags, there are quite a few "do's" and just as many "don’ts." I'll set them out below, with the legal rationale behind the guidance.
DO pick a legible font.
Accessibility matters. Consult an ADA guide and pick a font that is easy to read.
For this reason, employee name-tags should not be hand-written.
DON'T require employees to wear name tags without a "Name Tag Policy".
As we'll see, some of the details of name tag use can get tricky. A well-thought-out, board-adopted policy is the best way to ensure the policy covers all the required bases and is enforceable.
DO have a good reason to adopt the policy.
A name tag policy should not stand alone; it should be part of an overall approach to patron service.
DON'T adopt a “Name Tag Policy” solely because of the request of one patron.
Of course, a patron request could kick off a board's consideration of adopting such a policy, but again, employee name tags should be part of the overall approach to library operations.
DO memorialize the reason for the policy in the board minutes.
For example: "WHEREAS the board has found that easily identifying library employees by their first name or nickname promotes a positive experience for patrons, visitors, and vendors, and enhances initiatives to promote confidentiality and security...."
DON'T demand that employees put their full name on the name tag.
This has to do with safety and privacy. Most definitely, a board can determine that name tags may be part of the patron experience, and request that employees wear a badge that includes their name. However, unless the policy sets out a reason why a full name is needed, full disclosure should not be required. Further, if an employee wants to use a nickname, to further avoid identification outside of the workplace, that option should be considered.
DO consider that the format for the name tag include an employee's pronouns
This is just a nice thing to do, but is also a good way to document a practice of honoring the identity of employees in a way that is consistent with state and federal civil rights laws.
DON'T pass such a policy without thinking about your union (if there is one)
If there's a union, before you pass such a policy, get some legal input on the contract. And even if there isn't a union, think about the requirement from the perspective of the employee experience.
DO require volunteers to wear name tags, if employees in similar situations are so required.
This goes back to documenting the reason for the name tag policy. If the practice is that every employee working in patron-facing areas wears a name tag, patron-facing volunteers should, too.
 This is just an example. There are many other reasons that a board may base its decision on. The point is that the reasons should be genuine, and be documented.
 This one pains me because I tend to be a stickler for formality; upon first meeting someone, I would rather they call me "Ms. Adams" rather than "Stephanie" (which only strangers and my mother call me, since my nickname is "Cole"). So, if there is a library out there that wants to go formal "Ms. Adams/Mr. Adams/RP Adams," that's fine, too. The point is: full names should only be displayed if it is determined they are necessary.
 Nicknames are okay, but DON'T let them detract from the professionalism of the workplace. In one sexual harassment case, the manager of a bar used the nickname "Big Daddy" on his name tag. It was found that this (and other actions of debatable taste) were not a legal violation, but as the judge dismissed the case, he commented that the behavior was "obnoxious and puerile" (see Urban v Capital Fitness, 2010 [EDNY Nov. 23, 2010, No. CV08-3858(WDW)]). But of course, this was found to not be a violation in a bar, not a library. And remember, things have changed a lot since 2010.
Tags: Employment, Policy, Privacy