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Employee/workplace Dress code : What to do when professionalism and personality collide?
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Trends change in the workplace, and when the “status quo,” or what consumers have come to expect collides with practicality or legality, employers are left juggling some confusing questions about how to achieve professionalism while accommodating the tastes of their employees and complying with laws.
According to Diane E. Stanton, a managing partner in an employment and benefits law firm, employers may mandate an employee dress code policy as long as the rule is “reasonable and administered consistently.” But the standards can be confusing, particularly since employers are expected, in some cases, to apply the same workplace dress code across the board, while in other cases, gender, religion, or disabilities may play a factor.
The courts have concluded for the present that employers may enforce “reasonable appearance rules even if they prohibit the expression of cultural or ethnic values if the rules are job-related and are applied consistently.” In order to promote professionalism, then, an employer may mandate that all employees dress conservatively, or require male employees to wear their hair short and forbid them from wearing earrings.
On the other hand, an employer may not require an employee to wear a sexually provocative uniform, as this constitutes sex discrimination. In addition, it would be unlawful for an employer to require professional women to dress and behave in a “feminine” way, according to Stanton. The laws about religious garb in the workplace can be equally as confusing.
We can help you sort out some of the sticky issues presented by employee dress code policy, and help you draft a policy to include in your employee handbook. Consult our Human Resources Department.
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