Workplace Dress Codes — 3 Do’s and Don’ts for Employers

dress-codeby Rich Milliner

The arrival of summer temperatures, along with a more relaxed feel around the office, can leave some employers unsure about how to set dress standards that are both in line with the company image and in compliance with the law. Consider the following do’s and don’ts:

1. DO Make Sure Your Policies are Clearly Communicated
Your dress code will more likely be observed if it is communicated in a clear and unambiguous manner, including:

• Your company’s philosophy about the image it wishes to present;
• A list of appropriate business attire for both men and women;
• When formal business attire is required;
• Examples of acceptable and prohibited attire (for instance, are sandals or t-shirts permitted on ‘dress-down Fridays’?); and
• How the policy will be enforced.

2. DON’T Single Out Specific Groups of Employees
Employers are generally permitted under federal law to establish dress codes which apply to all employees or to employees within certain job categories. Keep in mind the following guidelines for employers subject to the laws enforced by the EEOC:

• A dress code must not treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin. For example, a dress code that prohibits certain kinds of ethnic dress, but otherwise permits casual dress, would treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin.
• If a dress code conflicts with an employee’s religious practices and the employee requests an accommodation, the employer must modify the dress code or permit an exception to the dress code unless doing so would result in undue hardship.
• If an employee requests an accommodation to the dress code because of his or her disability, the employer must modify the dress code or permit an exception to the dress code, unless doing so would result in undue hardship.

3. DON’T Deduct for Uniforms Unless Net Wages Exceed Minimum Wage
Uniforms present unique challenges for employers. Generally, if an employer requires that employees wear a particular color, such clothing would not be a uniform. However, if a specific type and style of clothing is required or if clothing containing the employer’s emblem or logo must be worn at work, such clothing would generally be considered a uniform.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not allow uniforms to be included as wages. If you require your employees to bear the cost of their uniforms, their wages may not fall below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In addition, the cost of the uniform may not cut into an employee’s overtime compensation.

Additional Information
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers additional tips for employers related to dress code policies. Be sure to comply with any applicable state-specific laws and consult with an employment law attorney to identify issues that may be unique to your workplace, including the presence of hazards that may require the use of personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, hard hats, and safety shoes.

Source: Essential StaffCare Healthcare Reform webinar www.eschealthcarereform.com

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