Address Your Dress Code

dress code

Is your dress code policy working for your organization?  Ask yourself if your policy reflects your company’s culture and image?  Do employees know and follow the policy?  Are your managers able to enforce it when necessary, or do they defer to Human Resources for support?

If you’ve had issues with employee understanding, manager enforcement or sensitive dress violations, maybe it’s time to reassess your policy.

Enlist Employee Help

Recruit a diverse group of employees to brainstorm ideas.  Challenge them with the task of creating dress guidelines that are employee-friendly yet conform to business culture and image.

Make sure the review group has representation from most job functions at your location as well as different position levels.  By doing this, you’ll get a broad perspective on dress code options as well as ensure buy-in when the new guidelines are announced.

Be sure HR has a seat at the task force table.  You’ll bring a wealth of information on dress code violations and discipline history.  You’ll also keep an eye on potential issues such as safety concerns and employee harassment and discrimination.

Less Is More

Instead of an exhaustive list of what type of pants are acceptable, how long skirts should be and which type of toe-visible shoes are allowed, stick to a short list of clothing that is prohibited such as flip flops and crop tops.  You trust your professional adult workers to make the right job decisions every day.  Why not extend that trust and responsibility to their dress?

This is not to say that “anything goes,” but placing the responsibility of appropriate dress on your employees empowers them and acknowledges their ability to make mature decisions.

Your guidelines should include room for exceptions, such as recommending more formal dress when clients visit the office.  And be sure to include a statement on “manager discretion” to allow for unusual circumstances or exceptions.

For starters, you can find sample dress code policies at this Human Resources website.

professional dress codeTransition

If you change your dress code, be sure to communicate changes to your employees and update any policy documents and handbook.  Ensure that managers and supervisors are trained.

Incorporate information on your dress code in new employee orientation.  Don’t forget to include it also in any intern information, and make sure temporary employees know your expectations.


It’s also important that managers and supervisors understand the policy and accept enforcement responsibility.  HR should not be enforcing this policy.

When supervisors see dress problems, the first step is to have a friendly conversation with the employee.  Ask him or her to observe the workplace and self-assess the appropriateness of the chosen attire.  Make sure that managers understand the discipline process for dress code violations, and apply it fairly and consistently.

Avoid Legal Issues

Be sure to get a legal review of your dress code.  For example, you may choose to prohibit hats in the office.  However, certain religious and ethnic groups require head coverings.  Employees may ask to wear their native attire.

If an employee with a disability requests an exception due to the disability, you must accommodate it, but you don’t have to modify your dress code.

To avoid issues, make sure your policy is in accordance with all Federal, state and local regulations.

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