Posts Tagged ‘Establishing Dress Codes’

Are Dress Codes Outdated?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

dress-code on employee screening blogOur previous post covered diversity in the workplace, including being sensitive to employees who display their religious beliefs through clothing or hairstyle. We advised employers to avoid making an issue of any such break of dress code as long as job performance was not affected.

That leads us to today’s topic: are dress codes still being established in businesses? A look around a scattering of companies reveals a variety of policies that are currently in force:

Retail: Most major chains enforce dress codes. Target, Walmart, Macy’s, and Costco all require their employees to either dress in business wear or uniforms. Target’s red top and khaki bottom outfits are familiar to frequent shoppers. Costco’s guidelines forbid facial piercings (even after Costco was sued for the policy on religious grounds). And what would Walmart be without blue vests everywhere?

Smaller, locally-owned establishments are usually a reflection of their clientele and surroundings. Some stores allow employees to wear whatever they want—which can be dangerous! The definition of “too casual” depends largely on your industry and where you’re located. West coasters tend to be more casual, and we’ve seen plenty of t-shirts, jeans, and flip-flops worn by sales clerks. If that’s a normal look in your area, your customers probably won’t think it’s a big deal—especially if they’re dressed the same way. In bigger cities and on the east coast, people tend to dress up more, and retail clerks’ dress reflects it.

Restaurants: Most restaurants have established dress codes, at the very least for health and safety reasons. Customers don’t usually care for a guy in a tank top taking their dinner order (as happened to a friend of ours recently!). Upscale restaurants see dressed-up diners who expect professional appearances for host and wait staff.

Health Workers: Scrubs are the norm in all areas of health care, from walk-in clinics to emergency rooms. Nurses, doctors, and dental assistants are usually decked out in scrubs for their entire work day—even television’s Dr. Oz wears scrubs for every appearance on Oprah’s show.

Professionals: Most law offices and finance-related businesses still require corporate dress for all staff, from CEO to reception. You don’t expect to see a board room full of people dressed in sweat pants and tennis shoes. Nor would most folks feel comfortable if their lawyer represented them in court while wearing a t-shirt and shorts! Suits, dress shirts and ties, skirts, and hose are still considered proper attire in the legal and financial fields.

Dress codes can encourage professional conduct and increase productivity for your employees. But beware: if you do not currently have a dress code in your company, your employees may resist it—so be sure to communicate your reasons clearly, and to enforce it consistently. When deciding what the dress code will entail, ask the following questions to avoid legal trouble:

  • Is the policy fair for employees of both genders and all ages?
  • Does it infringe on any employee’s religious beliefs?
  • Does it infringe on a cultural aspect of a specific race?
  • Would a disability prevent an employee from complying?
  • Can employees fulfill their job duties when complying?
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