Your Dress Code Policy
The authority to set dress codes belongs to you. While that authority may be limited by law, in most cases the authority to establish or to change required dress is yours.
If you want to have a written policy on this issue, here's some information to consider including in your policy:
- Address probable areas of conflict and specific problem areas that have or are likely to occur in your particular business.
- Emphasize the importance of dress in promoting a positive company image to customers.
- Keep up with the times so that your business's view of what is appropriate for business dress stays current.
- Identify any exceptions. It may make good business sense to prohibit casual dress when employees meet customers face to face. There may be work areas within your company where the casual day attire must be dressier than in other areas. Carefully itemize the differing requirements to avoid any confusion and explain why there are differences.
- Never assume that your definition of terms such as "proper," "pressed," "reserved," and "appropriate" is shared by every individual who works for you.
- In the event that you are writing a "dress down" policy or amending your existing dress policy to cover casual dress, stress that a "casual day" or "dress down day" is a benefit, not a right.
- If you are introducing "dress down" days or modifying an existing dress policy, set a future date such as three months later to review the policy to determine if you are going to continue the practice.
- If employees consistently have trouble determining the appropriate dress and they are in positions where they deal with the public, you may want to provide them with uniforms.
Problem areas. Here are some specific fashion problems that you may wish to address in your dress code:
- Slogans or pictures on T-shirts. Certainly profanity and nude or semi-nude pictures printed on shirts are inappropriate attire in most workplaces and should be prohibited. Also consider whether political slogans, advertisements for products (which may include your competitors'), or suggestive cartoons or drawings are inappropriate for your worksite and should be prohibited.
- Torn pants or jeans. While this style of clothing may be fashionable among some, to many others, tears in clothing are unacceptable attire and are inappropriate in most workplaces. Does your policy distinguish between this fashion trend and acceptable casual pants and jeans?
- Extremely baggy shorts or pants. Also consider what to do if underwear is showing above baggy pants as is currently fashionable in some areas. Does your policy specify how these situations will be handled as well as prohibit this style of dress?
- Jeans, jogging suits, or sweatsuits. For many companies, dress down attire does not include the most casual attire that is available. If your business is one for which "casual dress" means no tie and a sports coat instead of a three-piece dress suit and wingtips, you must make that distinction clear. Does your policy clearly describe what "casual" is and when it is unacceptable?
- Revealing attire. Clothes such as shorts, crop tops, tank tops, and clothes made of see-through materials or clothes that expose areas of the body usually covered in the workplace are more popular during the summer months. Is this attire prohibited?
- Undergarments. If the observable lack of undergarments would be an issue, specify that proper undergarments are required. Although this is a sensitive issue, it is much easier to address it in a policy than to have to debate whether or not someone's attire is inappropriate or disruptive.
- Loose footwear such as flip-flops. In some workplaces, a loose shoe may pose a safety hazard. Other types of shoes such as open-toe sandals may also pose a safety risk. Investigate any safety prohibitions and determine whether this type of footwear is permitted according to the dress policy.
- Hosiery. In some worksites, proper footwear always includes socks or pantyhose (or stockings). Other workplaces may require socks for health or safety reasons. Be sure a hosiery requirement does not interfere or conflict with safety requirements.
- Hats or baseball caps. In addition to writing on hats and caps that may be objectionable, consider whether a hat could be a hazard as well.
- Gang attire. Some street gangs have specific symbols, phrases, or insignias that are worn by members, while other gangs rely on specific colors as a part of their regalia. You may want to consider prohibiting gang insignias since they may create problems between employees and between employees and customers.