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

Latest items in Dress Codes

  • Personal Appearance and Grooming Handbook Statement

    Type:
    Employee Handbooks

    Employers wishing to make sure that all employees understand what is considered acceptable dress and how to make a request for a religious, medical or disability-based accommodation should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.

  • Dress Codes and Appearance Policies - Supervisor Briefing

    Type:
    Supervisor Briefings

    This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices for dress codes and appearance policies in the workplace, including to whom they apply, reasons for implementation, types of policies and enforcement.

  • Summer Dress Codes

    Date:
    25 March 2014
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    With the onset of warmer weather and longer days, an employer may want to permit employees to dress a little bit more casually and comfortably. However, an employer should be sure to implement a comprehensive policy that clearly addresses summer attire and the employer's expectations.

  • Seeking the Right 'Look' for Employees Proves Costly for Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch

    Date:
    27 September 2013
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has reached a settlement in two religious discrimination lawsuits over retailer Abercrombie & Fitch's "Look Policy," a dress code that prohibited employees from wearing hijabs or religious headscarves. As part of the settlement, Abercrombie will pay $71,000 plus attorney fees and revise its dress code policy.

  • Employers' Dress Code Restrictions Violated Employees' NLRA Rights

    Date:
    29 August 2013
    Type:
    News

    In two recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions, employers that maintained restrictive dress code policies and/or disciplined employees for violating those policies committed an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

  • Financial Services Resource Center for HR: Discrimination and Harassment

    Date:
    28 June 2013
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    XpertHR's Financial Services Resource Center for HR helps financial services employers handle their most challenging employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.

  • Financial Services Resource Center for HR: Employee Handbooks and Workplace Conduct

    Date:
    28 June 2013
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    XpertHR's Financial Services Resource Center for HR helps financial services employers handle their most challenging employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.

  • High-Tech/Software and Communications Resource Center for HR: Employee Handbooks

    Date:
    16 April 2013
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    XpertHR's High-Tech Resource Center for HR: Employee Handbooks helps high-tech employers handle their most challenging employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.

  • No Skirting the Issue: Refusal to Allow Worker to Wear Skirt Results in $25,000 Religious Discrimination Settlement

    Date:
    24 January 2013
    Type:
    News

    While it is generally lawful for an employer to develop and implement dress codes and uniform policies, the employer must be mindful of employees' right to practice their religion and wear clothing that comports with their religious beliefs and practices, or else it may face a religious discrimination claim. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Fries Restaurant Management, LLC d/b/a Burger King, Fries Restaurant Management (Fries) agreed to pay $25,000 to a teen employee who was asked to leave work because she wore a skirt instead of the required uniform of black pants.

  • NLRB Commits Fashion Faux Pas as Court Reverses Determination That Dress Code Violates NLRA

    Date:
    07 January 2013
    Type:
    News

    The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an NLRB decision holding that Medco committed an unfair labor practice and violated Section 7 by requiring an employee to remove his t-shirt with a message mocking the employer's employee recognition program and by banning insulting, provocative and confrontational expressions on clothing. The court sent the case back to the NLRB because it had failed to show that the clothing ban was instituted in response to union activity or that a reasonable employee could construe the rule as prohibiting protected activity.

About this topic

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