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2 Components of a Successful Dress Code Policy

It’s that time of year, with temperatures rising, when questionable clothing choices inevitably appear in the workplace. It is important for employers to be proactive when it comes to managing their dress code, instead of reactive. A strong dress code policy reiterated in a staff meeting or companywide email, along with photos of acceptable and unacceptable workplace attire, is an effective way to clarify dress code expectations before employee attire becomes a problem.  


Employers should ensure their dress code reflects the image they wish to project to the public. The policy should include specific examples of appropriate and inappropriate attire for the workplace. For instance, employers can specify that open-toed shoes, such as sandals, are acceptable however beach-type footwear, such as flip-flops, are not appropriate. Employers may further distinguish dress code by position. For example, positions that are customer interfacing may be required to wear business professional attire while business casual attire is acceptable for internal staff members.


Any dress code policy needs to be neutral and avoid singling out a group of employees based on their sex, national origin, race, religion, or any other protected classification. If an employee requests an accommodation to the dress code policy for the employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs,” the employer needs to make reasonable exceptions to their policy unless doing so would result in a significant safety risk or an undue hardship. If an employer is going to refuse an accommodation request it must be for a legitimate business reason and should be discussed with legal counsel before denying the request.

The policy should provide a designated contact that employees can reach out to with any questions or concerns they may have pertaining to the policy.

While there are no specific provisions within federal and state labor laws regarding dress codes, HR Works can assist employers with crafting a dress code policy that will reflect the image of the organization and avoid conflicts with nondiscrimination laws. Sample Professional Attire policies are available upon request for HR Works Virtual HR Helpline clients.

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HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.