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Thursday, April 10, 2014

What not to wear

The examination of the California tech explosion of the 1990’s introduced the world not only to the “dot-com” industry but also to casual business attire. The staunch days of business suits gave way to casual Fridays and in some cases, casual every days. Businesses began to realize that employee’s did not have to dress formally for work, especially if they didn’t leave their desk or interface with clients. 

Dress codes
Some businesses have formal dress code policies. Most have some sort of rule, either for safety of image, which is conveyed to employees. The way employees dress and present themselves represents the company’s image. But, if the company does not provide clothing for a uniform way of dressing, then there has to be a policy to ensure the desired image is presented.  Companies can delineate what that image will be.

As the workforce and upper management become younger, dress codes have been relaxing. The business acumens regarding formality and attire are becoming more casual on a daily basis. Formal dress around the office isn’t seen as necessary to completing tasks. A Harvard business school study indicated that dressing down and standing out may offer an air of influence. In retail, luxury store sales staff perceived shoppers dressed in sweats as being more willing to buy than shoppers who wore fancier clothes. The refreshed policies are more about being effective rather than the way one looks.

When policies are written they have to consider other areas of appearance as well as clothing. There’s make up, earrings, piercings, and tattoos. In more recent years policies must also consider religious garb and grooming.

Religious reasons
Dressing a certain way for religious reasons has further defined office dress codes. Employer policies have been tested and the issue has been through the courts. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in March published a fact sheet and a Q&A to address employer concerns with dress codes. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must make allowances to permit employees to follow religious dress and grooming practices. The EEOC guidance on Religious Garb and Grooming can be found on the Information/resources page of our website.

Having clearly defined and fair policies regarding employee dress provides for a congenial work environment and protects your business.