Simple is the dress code ‘code word’

Around the turn of the last century, office dress was a given. Suit and tie for men, dresses or skirts for women.

Today that just doesn’t fit the bill. In fact, the less detail in workplace dress codes, the better, according to HR Drive. Dress code questions are an ongoing source of concern, especially when issues of gender identity, race and religion come into play.

Today’s advice to employees is boiled down to simple requirements: Dress appropriately, dress professionally or wear business attire.

That’s because employers send the wrong message by requiring uniformity. By saying everyone has to look alike by, for example, wearing slacks, companies leave themselves open to religious and cultural bias issues. What if one employee wants to wear a sari because of their culture or a hijab for religious purposes?

If specific uniforms are required, HR Drive advises employers to add “if accommodations are necessary, let us know.” If someone is transitioning to another gender, employers should let them dress in accordance with their gender association.

While that’s good policy for any business, state laws are heading in that direction as well, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status.

Broad dress codes such as “dress appropriately” can require judgement calls, employers should rely on old-fashioned common sense to prevail among their employees.

It is also important that if an employer has an issue with the way one employee in particular is dressing, they should first address it with HR to be sure there are no legal issues to consider; and when speaking with the subject of the dress code infringement, doing so privately out of respect rather than in front of the rest of the staff will go a long way.


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