Pappas: Women who work for me 'love' wearing Cook County smocks that the men don't have to wear
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
by Kim Janssen
It’s fair to say that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas is known for her eccentricities.
What other 68-year-old politician would give a public speech, as Pappas did not long ago, in which she displayed a giant photo of herself performing the splits while suspended from the ceiling in an “aerial yoga” studio?
But when it comes to the workplace attire of her staff, Pappas is more traditional.
Women in the treasurer’s office are required to wear branded county-issued smocks over their clothes, while men are not.
Now Peter Gariepy, who is challenging Pappas in next month’s Democratic primary, is making a campaign issue of what he says are the sexist uniform rules.
“The implication is that men are capable of dressing themselves while women are not,” said Gariepy, who added that he has been approached by former employees of Pappas who were unhappy about the unequal uniform requirement but were “fearful of retribution” if they complained about it.
Pappas did not return calls seeking comment Monday, but in an appearance before the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board last week she said the women who work for her “love the smocks!”
“The reason is that they are on salaries and they like that they don’t have to spend all this money on clothes,” she said in a recording of her appearance. “There’s not a person working for me that doesn’t want to wear their smock — these people have kids, they have families, and they don’t want to get dirty with all the things that go on in there.”
Pappas said that the smocks were introduced 20 years ago to help identify who works for her after a series of frauds in the office under her predecessor. Men who work for her are required to wear white shirts and ties, which she said were sufficient to identify them “because nobody else in the building wears white shirts and ties.”
“Not one person has come and said I don’t want to wear this,” she said, adding that Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s staff also wear smocks.
A visit to Brown’s offices Monday, however, revealed that men as well as women wear the smocks in the clerk’s office.
Pappas’ staff on Monday were broadly adhering to the uniform requirement, though one male employee with a rebellious streak was spotted wearing a light gray shirt. Lock him up!