HR Management & Compliance

Workplace Dress Code Policies: What Issues Must They Address?

There’s nothing casual about drafting a dress code policy. An August 22 BLR audio conference will tell you how to create one that’s both legal and workable.

More than a decade ago, business began to implement the dress code policy of “Casual Friday.”

Employers back then felt that loosening the rigid standards of past years would improve morale and that workers would have the good judgment to replace coats and ties, skirts and blouses and pantsuits, with equally tasteful, though less formal attire.

Buried by micro-minis, halter tops, T-shirts with controversial messages, and ripped jeans, not to mention legal disputes over disciplining employees who wore them, some companies are now backtracking off this trend. And they’re probably ruing the day they created a dress code policy without fully thinking through its implications.

On August 22, BLR will present a special audio conference looking at the issues your company needs to address in a dress code. The 90-minute session is called Workplace Dress Codes: How to Maintain a Professional Looking Workforce Without Opening Yourself Up to Employee Complaints and Bias Allegations. Those issues include:

Create a dress code that’s both legal and enforceable. An August 22 special audio conference tells you how. Can’t attend? Preorder the CD. Read more.

–The Generational Issue. Good taste in dress is in the eye of the beholder, but these days, there are four sets of beholders in many workplaces, representing four generations of workers. Your oldest employees likely hold to a traditional sense of dress, and while outnumbered by younger workers at most companies, they often hold the senior positions. While 90 percent of your workers may think jeans at work are just dandy, it takes only one vote by the 65-year-old CEO, and the nays have it. Bottom line: You must adopt a policy that all generations can live with.

–The Legal Issues. Labor law says little about dress codes but a lot about discriminating in how you treat employees, especially in protected groups. Your dress policy must respect health needs and the customs of religion and national origin, must not put burdens on one gender more than the other, and must both be consistently applied n and based on good business reasons. Anything less invites the kind of suit you don’t wear. Dress code discrimination cases have made it to the highest appellate courts. And while such cases have a poor record of success, the costs of defending your position can be massive.

–The “Professionalism” Issue. Many dress codes merely insist that employees appear professional, but these days there seems no generally accepted agreement on what professional is. Watch the news. You’ll see male presidential candidates appearing tieless, even during formal speeches, something seldom seen in past elections.

–The Safety Issue. One government agency with a lot to say about dress is OSHA. Your dress policy must adhere to strict workplace safety standards. This, however, brings up the issue of who pays to purchase and maintain safety-related uniforms or other apparel. Different industries may have varying standards in this regard.

Can’t attend the August 22 audio conference on structuring a legal dress code? Preorder the CD! Click here.

–The Implementation Issue. Any policy must include provision for what happens to violators. It used to be a simple matter of sending an inappropriately dressed worker home to change, but these days home may be a 90-minute ride away. Consider also how to handle repeat violators, and what to do about employees whose intentions are innocent and who see their personal style as flattering, even as others are offended or embarrassed.

The audio conference presenter, noted attorney Aliza F. Herzberg, will address all these issues, filling in the details and examples that will help you relate general principles to your specific situation. And the presentation will be followed by an extensive Q & A to provide personal answers to your phoned-in or e-mailed questions. We recommend you attend, or if August 22 is not convenient, preorder a CD of the session.

You can do either by clicking on the link below.

Stressed Over How Your Employees Dress?
If you feel the way your workers dress is damaging the image of your business, you need a dress code. But first you need to know the legalities involved. Learn them at a special BLR August 22 audio conference on creating a legal, workable dress code policy. Can’t attend? Preorder the CD. Read more.