Dress Code Liabilities

HR Resource
May 13, 2013 — 3,491 views  
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While a company may want to set rules for employee dress codes, the process is not going to be smooth. The challenges to be confronted might emerge at a personal, as well as social level. Some employees may not agree with your idea of the dress code. In extreme cases, you may have unwittingly enforced a dress code that is against some ethnic or racial beliefs.

Benefits of a Dress Code

Employee dress codes light up the company’s image. You certainly want your company’s employees to look presentable to the clients, which may make an impact on the business. The dress code distinguishes your company from other companies. But the dress code should not leave any scope for discrimination. This is because all the advantages of having a company dress code are lost if you face retaliation from employees.

Many companies have set a dress code for their employees. A dress code helps to put employees in a serious frame of mind to conduct business. Additionally, a common dress code is like a uniform that reminds employees of their rights, responsibilities, and duties.

Things to Include in a Dress Code

If employee dress codes are not thought about seriously, they could possibly lead to unnecessary controversy. So, dress codes must be given a serious thought before setting one. Full length cotton or woolen pants, or suit pants for men and women, knee-level cotton or woolen skirts and split skirts could be ideally set. But there are certain dress codes that need to be avoided, which include sun dresses, mini skirts, shorts, and denim. Employee dress codes usually avoid head gear of any kind unless they are a part of religious or ethnic attire. Lack of cultural understanding of the employees may lead to retaliation from employees. 

While closed toe shoes are recommended, sandals, sneakers, thongs, and flip flops are best to be avoided. While the supervisor is responsible to enforce the dress code, he /she should also be open to questions and discussions on it. A dress code cannot work unless it is consistently enforced through warnings and eventual dismissal on multiple failures.

Addressing Obscenity

No company with employee dress codes tolerates obscenity. The first issue to address obscenity includes visible undergarments. People may have questions on it and unless clearly identified within the policy that any attempt to resist obscenity in dress will amount to discrimination. So, right at the outset supervisors should clarify the company policy on the issue. The policy should ideally state the dividing line between appropriate and inappropriate. Revealing clothing should be strictly prohibited.

Addressing Religious Aspects

Unless dress codes are addressed from religious and ethnic perspectives, there will always be the threat of retaliation. It is best for the management to hold discussions with employees before finalizing the dress code. The importance of cultural competence is quite relevant here so as to take religious and ethnic wear into account while framing employee dress codes. Additionally, it is important to include special occasions when ethnic and religious dresses are to be worn, otherwise it might lead to discrimination.

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