Summer sunshine and rising temperatures tend to have people trading their sweaters and boots for tank tops and flip flops. Warmer weather generally means less conservative clothing which reveals more skin, body art, and/or piercings previously hidden by cold weather wear. This can potentially cause issues with employees and also challenge a company’s dress code.
Companies can proactively address issues by adopting or modifying their dress code policy. Some companies adhere to the same dress code year-round while others use seasonal policies influenced by industry, region, or customer base.
When creating or amending these policies, companies should keep in mind:
- Workplace safety (hard hats, protective eyewear, rubber soles, etc.)
- Business image (logoed clothing, fitness apparel, suits, etc.)
- Job-specific necessities (uniforms, foot wear, tool belts, etc.)
- If it is practical for employees to abide (affordability, locker room, etc.)
- Compliance with federal and state laws (when in doubt – ask an expert)
Written standards for acceptable attire may also need to address grooming standards. Policies surrounding beards, body odor, and/or wildly colorful hair will vary by company, but these types of things should still be considered when creating the policy.
For example, a policy may contain:
- Skirts, shorts, kilts, and other similar articles of clothing must not be above the knee
- Crop tops, halter tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, strapless tops, and off the shoulder tops should not be worn
- Flip flops or open toed sandals are not allowed
- Tattoos containing offensive language or imagery must be covered
- Facial hair cannot interfere with respirator functionality
- Long or loose hair must be securely fastened
- Uniforms that are tattered, torn, or in disrepair should not be worn
The language and enforcement of dress codes should be clear, consistent, and compliant. Poorly written and inconsistently enforced policies can lead to gender, religious, and/or racial discrimination claims. It’s important to have an expert (such as KPA’s HR Consultants or a company’s legal counsel) review existing and/or new dress code policies.
Some things to consider for a successful enforcement of the dress code policy:
- Make sure leaders understand they are the ambassadors of the policy
- Educate managers to recognize and handle requests for accommodation
- Review the company’s disciplinary action policy with managers
- Ensure violations are properly documented, including time records for non-exempt employees who are sent home to change
- Communicate the policy to all employees
- Have employees sign the policy and make it available for future reference
The costly (and sometimes devastating where safety is concerned) risks of not having a dress code policy can easily be avoided.