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What should an employer do about dress codes?
  • It is recommended that employers have a written dress code policy.
  • Employers should set a clear policy and example of how employees should dress.

Many employers implement dress codes to maintain and present a professional atmosphere. Some organizations need to restrict the type of clothing that can be worn for safety reasons (such as loose-fitting clothing that could be caught in machinery). However, safety is a legitimate concern for clothing restrictions, and generally doesn’t bring up the same issues as a general dress code.

It is recommended that employers have a written dress code policy. Enforcing expected standards for clothing and appearance can be challenging if employees have never received any notice or indication that such standards exist. Without a formal policy, employers are more likely to face resistance about whether an individual’s appearance is inappropriate.

How can an employer create a dress code policy that will allow employees flexibility in their appearance, but still allow the company to present a professional image and determine that a particular outfit is not acceptable? Consider:

  • Instead of listing every type of acceptable clothing, use concepts with general guidelines, such as business casual;
  • Give examples of appropriate attire, especially using pictures of actual employees;
    • If there are different rules for different departments or positions, be sure to include all scenarios; and
    • If there are special rules for summertime apparel or for designated casual days, include those photos, too.