Workplace dress code and grooming policies can help a business maintain an appropriate image, ensure workplace safety, and foster an atmosphere of teamwork among employees. However, employers must take care to avoid creating policies that are discriminatory. Below we review some important factors to consider when creating employee dress codes and grooming policies.
It is important to remember that an employer’s policies must not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, gender, marriage, pregnancy, race, religion, sex or any other category protected under Federal or Texas state law. When drafting your company’s dress code and grooming policy, make sure that the rules it creates can be enforced consistently and without prejudice.
Keep the following four (4) areas top of mind:
Race and National Origin—ensure that your dress code isn’t restrictive to the point that it conflicts with the common clothing of a particular country or region. Also be aware of grooming policies that may create a disparate impact on employees of certain races or national origins.
Sex Discrimination—make sure that the policies don’t place a greater burden on one gender over the other. For instance, if the vast majority of policies address female attire, it needs to be revisited and balanced.
Religious Discrimination—don’t restrict a type of clothing or facial hair that will make an employee feel conflicted as it relates to their religious beliefs.
Disability Discrimination—include exceptions to any policy that might make an employee with a disability in violation of the dress code.
Tie your dress codes and grooming policies to the job duties and bona fide occupational qualifications but keep in mind that you may need to make an accommodation for specific employees, such as an accommodation related to attire based on an employee’s sincerely held religious belief.
Issues to Address In your Dress Code and Grooming Policy
While it’s normal—even expected by employees—to require a more stringent dress code for those who regularly meet with customers, designing a dress code for those who aren’t customer-facing should come down to several issues:
Your Company’s Brand and Image – Your employees represent your company even when they’re not in the office. If they’re wearing a company-branded shirt, for instance, they’re an extension of your company, whether walking around common areas or going to lunch.
Address the following in your policy:
- Revealing or Offensive Clothing
Be careful to avoid subjective terms such as “proper” or “appropriate,” as these are different for everyone. Instead, specify the type of attire that is or is not allowed. (E.g. tank tops, mesh shirts, tops that expose the midriff, etc.)
The Nature of the Employee’s Work – If an employee’s position requires that they sit at a desk the entire day without meeting with customers, affording them comfort will go a long way in promoting company loyalty and office morale.
Safety Standards – Always take any safety standards into consideration. For instance, if an employee has a position in which they operate, or work with, heavy machinery, require that they wear clothing and footwear that keeps them safe at all times.
Enforcing Dress Code Policies
If an employee is in violation of your dress code, make sure you address the issue with the employee in private. Don’t question his or her taste or fashion sense, but make sure the dress code clearly states the infraction the employee is violating. At that point, it is your decision whether or not to require the employee go home and change, then return to work. If the employee continues to violate the same dress code or grooming policy, document his or her behavior and file it with Human Resources.
There are many issues to consider when addressing workplace dress code and grooming policies. Drafting this documentation should never be taken lightly. Consulting employment law attorneys like those at Simon | Paschal PLLC is the best way to ensure your company’s dress code and grooming policies are comprehensively, effectively and legally constructed.