Dress codes: who, what, wear

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June 12th, 2018

As an HR representative or business owner it’s your responsibility to make sure things run smoothly, and sometimes that means enforcing rules or standards that your employees may not want to follow. Dress codes and appearance guidelines are a good way for employers to not only ensure their workforce looks professional to customers and clients, but also can help avoid harassment claims and disciplinary problems.

When it comes to drafting an effective dress policy there are a few things employers should be aware of.

Setting understandable guidelines
A common error in drafting dress codes is to make the language too broad and open-ended, which results in a policy that is hard to follow and to enforce. For example: phrases like “business casual” and “professional attire” don’t clearly outline what an employee can and cannot wear. Instead use specific terms and be clear what is acceptable and unacceptable. Use phrases like “no blue jeans” or “skirts and dresses must reach knee-length.”

Making those guidelines reasonable
While it is advisable to err on the conservative side, an overly strict dress code can hurt employee morale. When drafting your policy try to keep in mind what is reasonable and necessary for your office.  For example, flip-flops may not be acceptable in a traditional law firm, but they may be acceptable in other environments. Making a policy that is unreasonably strict is also harder to enforce and may result in disciplinary complications.  

Avoiding discrimination
When instituting a dress code employers should be mindful to avoid requirements that might interfere with an employee’s religious beliefs or result in a desperate impact. For example: some religions mandate wearing head coverings and a “no hat” policy may violate those practices. Employers should include a provision in a policy that accommodations can be made for religious beliefs.

Making a safe work environment
One aspect of dress codes that employers often overlook is the inclusion of any clothing or gear requirements that could result in a safer workplace. Requiring employees to wear closed-toe shoes, banning dangling jewelry, or specifying what type of eye wear is allowed can result in fewer injuries around the office and should be covered in a dress code policy.

Enforcing evenly
It is key to enforce your dress code policy evenly to avoid discrimination claims. While this is a good rule to follow with all policies it is one that is easily overlooked in regards to appearance. If you are going to reprimand an employee for being scantily clad, you must also discipline an employee who breaks your “no blue jeans” rule, although they seem like disproportionate offenses.


Here is a dress code template that you can customize to fit your needs.


Dress Code Policy 


Section 1. General Rule.  Employees’ personal appearance and hygiene are important both to Employees and the Company.  Employees are expected to maintain a good personal appearance and to give consideration to neatness and cleanliness.  Employees should always dress in a manner befitting the job, with due consideration to the needs of the Company, other Employees, and safety.   

Section 2. Clothing Requirements.  An Employee’s clothing should always be in keeping with customary acceptable attire for the [*workplace, *an office, *work, *and meeting with customers, clients, and the public.]  Clothing that is not allowed to be worn by Employees while working includes, but is not limited to, the following: 

  • tattered jeans or shorts 
  • shirts with language or graphics that are vulgar, sexually explicit, or may otherwise be offensive 
  • attire that is revealing or provocative 
  • flip-flops or any type of loose footwear 
  • sweat suits 
  • see-through blouses or shirts 
  • hairnets (unless worn around a food operation or clean room) 
  • sports bras, halter tops, or similar attire 
  • tank tops 
  • clothing that allows bare midriffs 
  • open-toed shoes 
  • loose clothing. 

Section 3. Jewelry/Tattoos/Piercings. Jewelry must be kept to a minimum.  Tattoos and body piercings may not be visible in work attire. 

Section 4. Accommodation. In the event that the above policy causes religious concerns or concerns based upon any other legally protected class, please contact the Human Resource Department to discuss an appropriate religious accommodation. 

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