HR Support on Dress Codes

Editor's Note: Provide guidance to employees regarding dress codes and appearance.

Beth P. Zoller Overview: Employers may want to consider developing and implementing a dress code policy in the workplace to address what type of clothing employees are permitted to wear for work and to convey the employer's expectations as to what type of image it hopes to project to the public. The dress code should be communicated to all employees and the employer should provide training on the policy. Additionally, employers may also want to introduce policies related to employee grooming, personal appearance and hygiene including the wearing of tattoos, jewelry, hairstyles and facial hair. In creating any dress code or appearance policy, employers should be mindful of the specific needs of the job and the business as well as safety and health considerations. For example, an office dress code may be different from the dress code on the factory floor. Employers should also have a strategy in place for handling dress code violations.

Trends: An employer may be obligated under Title VII as well as other federal, state and local antidiscrimination laws to make reasonable accommodations in its dress code policy for an employee in a protected class. For example, an employer may have to accommodate the request of a Sikh employee to wear a turban to work even if hats are generally not permitted by the office dress code. Further, employers may want to consider implementing different dress codes depending on the seasons. For example, it may be more comfortable to permit employees to wear more casual and relaxed clothing such as work appropriate sundresses and golf shirts rather than more formal business attire during the summer months.

Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor

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HR guidance regarding developing a dress code to address the employer’s needs and convey expectations regarding personal appearance to all employees.