2014 What Not to Wear – A Spring Guide to Personal Appearance Policies

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Explore:  Workplace Attire



While we may not think that spring is ever going to arrive, it is bound to show up eventually and with it we will dust off our spring wardrobe – or as many employers fear – the lack thereof

Spring is a troubling time for employers with respect to enforcing personal appearance policies.  I am reminded about a conversation I had at a luncheon a few weeks back where a human resources specialist asked me about requiring stockings for women and how to handle employees who dressed one way in an interview and completely changed their look come spring.  It is precisely because personal appearance is critically important to success and company image and yet also steeped in stereotypes that employers have to be cautious their policies and the enforcement of those policies do not expose the organization to appearance-based litigation.  Although there is no specific cause of action for such claims, these suits have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII (think religion and gender), state fair employment statutes and certain constitutional provisions. 

Examples of personal appearance stereotypes crop into our lives daily.  Take the Honorable Judge Kopf for instance who, this week, cautioned female attorneys not to dress in a manner that would entice other women to call them “ignorant slu*s,” all the while characterizing himself as a “dirty old man.”  While he was not speaking as an employer, his comments demonstrate the challenges of treating people equally in the workplace.  In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenza made national news when she sued her employer, Citibank, for telling her not to wear clothes that were acceptable and worn by other women in the office.  Flight attendants have brought claims for rules about weight and dress; while men have brought discrimination claims for policies that prohibit ponytails and earnings.  A man with a tattoo which depicted a white-hooded man burning a cross brought a religious discrimination claim, and just this week, an Alabama judge dismissed a case against a company for failing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.  

Personal appearance policies are permitted by the law as long as they are enforced even-handedly – a challenge in the spring when so many of these policies target women.  As we head into spring, keep in mind the following guidelines to maintain harmony in your workforce, but keep your professional standards on par. 

•    Review your policy for any necessary changes in the winter months and definitely before an issue arises. 
•    Ensure your policy does not distinguish between men and women or any other protected class
•    Check that your policy does not impact one protected class more than another (Sally, age 56, should be able to wear the same length of dress as Mary, age 24). 
•    Explain what you mean by your dress code as terms such as “business casual” or “business” may have different interpretations. 
•    Don’t be so restrictive you lose sight of your business objectives
•    Treat violations of your policy just like you would any other rule violation. 
•    Don’t single out certain groups – all too common in the spring when the ladies are warned about proper attire, but the men are left off of the memo trail. If you have to send out a reminder, send it to everyone. 
•    If you have a problem employee, be discreet and tactful in your approach as it may be that the person just needs a little additional guidance. 

These few guidelines will help you steer clear of unwelcome summer surprises and let you focus on other things like hmmmm… SUNSHINE!

- See more at: http://www.pilieromazza.com/blog/what-not-to-wear-a-spring-guide-to-personal-appearance-polices#sthash.YYtPzx24.dpuf



While we may not think that spring is ever going to arrive, it is bound to show up eventually and with it we will dust off our spring wardrobe – or as many employers fear – the lack thereof

Spring is a troubling time for employers with respect to enforcing personal appearance policies.  I am reminded about a conversation I had at a luncheon a few weeks back where a human resources specialist asked me about requiring stockings for women and how to handle employees who dressed one way in an interview and completely changed their look come spring.  It is precisely because personal appearance is critically important to success and company image and yet also steeped in stereotypes that employers have to be cautious their policies and the enforcement of those policies do not expose the organization to appearance-based litigation.  Although there is no specific cause of action for such claims, these suits have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII (think religion and gender), state fair employment statutes and certain constitutional provisions. 

Examples of personal appearance stereotypes crop into our lives daily.  Take the Honorable Judge Kopf for instance who, this week, cautioned female attorneys not to dress in a manner that would entice other women to call them “ignorant slu*s,” all the while characterizing himself as a “dirty old man.”  While he was not speaking as an employer, his comments demonstrate the challenges of treating people equally in the workplace.  In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenza made national news when she sued her employer, Citibank, for telling her not to wear clothes that were acceptable and worn by other women in the office.  Flight attendants have brought claims for rules about weight and dress; while men have brought discrimination claims for policies that prohibit ponytails and earnings.  A man with a tattoo which depicted a white-hooded man burning a cross brought a religious discrimination claim, and just this week, an Alabama judge dismissed a case against a company for failing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.  

Personal appearance policies are permitted by the law as long as they are enforced even-handedly – a challenge in the spring when so many of these policies target women.  As we head into spring, keep in mind the following guidelines to maintain harmony in your workforce, but keep your professional standards on par. 

•    Review your policy for any necessary changes in the winter months and definitely before an issue arises. 
•    Ensure your policy does not distinguish between men and women or any other protected class
•    Check that your policy does not impact one protected class more than another (Sally, age 56, should be able to wear the same length of dress as Mary, age 24). 
•    Explain what you mean by your dress code as terms such as “business casual” or “business” may have different interpretations. 
•    Don’t be so restrictive you lose sight of your business objectives
•    Treat violations of your policy just like you would any other rule violation. 
•    Don’t single out certain groups – all too common in the spring when the ladies are warned about proper attire, but the men are left off of the memo trail. If you have to send out a reminder, send it to everyone. 
•    If you have a problem employee, be discreet and tactful in your approach as it may be that the person just needs a little additional guidance. 

These few guidelines will help you steer clear of unwelcome summer surprises and let you focus on other things like hmmmm… SUNSHINE!

- See more at: http://www.pilieromazza.com/blog/what-not-to-wear-a-spring-guide-to-personal-appearance-polices#sthash.YYtPzx24.dpuf



While we may not think that spring is ever going to arrive, it is bound to show up eventually and with it we will dust off our spring wardrobe – or as many employers fear – the lack thereof

Spring is a troubling time for employers with respect to enforcing personal appearance policies.  I am reminded about a conversation I had at a luncheon a few weeks back where a human resources specialist asked me about requiring stockings for women and how to handle employees who dressed one way in an interview and completely changed their look come spring.  It is precisely because personal appearance is critically important to success and company image and yet also steeped in stereotypes that employers have to be cautious their policies and the enforcement of those policies do not expose the organization to appearance-based litigation.  Although there is no specific cause of action for such claims, these suits have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII (think religion and gender), state fair employment statutes and certain constitutional provisions. 

Examples of personal appearance stereotypes crop into our lives daily.  Take the Honorable Judge Kopf for instance who, this week, cautioned female attorneys not to dress in a manner that would entice other women to call them “ignorant slu*s,” all the while characterizing himself as a “dirty old man.”  While he was not speaking as an employer, his comments demonstrate the challenges of treating people equally in the workplace.  In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenza made national news when she sued her employer, Citibank, for telling her not to wear clothes that were acceptable and worn by other women in the office.  Flight attendants have brought claims for rules about weight and dress; while men have brought discrimination claims for policies that prohibit ponytails and earnings.  A man with a tattoo which depicted a white-hooded man burning a cross brought a religious discrimination claim, and just this week, an Alabama judge dismissed a case against a company for failing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.  

Personal appearance policies are permitted by the law as long as they are enforced even-handedly – a challenge in the spring when so many of these policies target women.  As we head into spring, keep in mind the following guidelines to maintain harmony in your workforce, but keep your professional standards on par. 

•    Review your policy for any necessary changes in the winter months and definitely before an issue arises. 
•    Ensure your policy does not distinguish between men and women or any other protected class
•    Check that your policy does not impact one protected class more than another (Sally, age 56, should be able to wear the same length of dress as Mary, age 24). 
•    Explain what you mean by your dress code as terms such as “business casual” or “business” may have different interpretations. 
•    Don’t be so restrictive you lose sight of your business objectives
•    Treat violations of your policy just like you would any other rule violation. 
•    Don’t single out certain groups – all too common in the spring when the ladies are warned about proper attire, but the men are left off of the memo trail. If you have to send out a reminder, send it to everyone. 
•    If you have a problem employee, be discreet and tactful in your approach as it may be that the person just needs a little additional guidance. 

These few guidelines will help you steer clear of unwelcome summer surprises and let you focus on other things like hmmmm… SUNSHINE!

- See more at: http://www.pilieromazza.com/blog/what-not-to-wear-a-spring-guide-to-personal-appearance-polices#sthash.YYtPzx24.dpuf

While we may not think that spring is ever going to arrive, it is bound to show up eventually and with it we will dust off our spring wardrobe – or as many employers fear – the lack thereof

Spring is a troubling time for employers with respect to enforcing personal appearance policies.  I am reminded about a conversation I had at a luncheon a few weeks back where a human resources specialist asked me about requiring stockings for women and how to handle employees who dressed one way in an interview and completely changed their look come spring.  It is precisely because personal appearance is critically important to success and company image and yet also steeped in stereotypes that employers have to be cautious their policies and the enforcement of those policies do not expose the organization to appearance-based litigation.  Although there is no specific cause of action for such claims, these suits have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII (think religion and gender), state fair employment statutes and certain constitutional provisions. 

Examples of personal appearance stereotypes crop into our lives daily.  Take the Honorable Judge Kopf for instance who, this week, cautioned female attorneys not to dress in a manner that would entice other women to call them “ignorant slu*s,” all the while characterizing himself as a “dirty old man.”  While he was not speaking as an employer, his comments demonstrate the challenges of treating people equally in the workplace.  In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenza made national news when she sued her employer, Citibank, for telling her not to wear clothes that were acceptable and worn by other women in the office.  Flight attendants have brought claims for rules about weight and dress; while men have brought discrimination claims for policies that prohibit ponytails and earnings.  A man with a tattoo which depicted a white-hooded man burning a cross brought a religious discrimination claim, and just this week, an Alabama judge dismissed a case against a company for failing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.  

Personal appearance policies are permitted by the law as long as they are enforced even-handedly – a challenge in the spring when so many of these policies target women.  As we head into spring, keep in mind the following guidelines to maintain harmony in your workforce, but keep your professional standards on par. 

•    Review your policy for any necessary changes in the winter months and definitely before an issue arises. 
•    Ensure your policy does not distinguish between men and women or any other protected class
•    Check that your policy does not impact one protected class more than another (Sally, age 56, should be able to wear the same length of dress as Mary, age 24). 
•    Explain what you mean by your dress code as terms such as “business casual” or “business” may have different interpretations. 
•    Don’t be so restrictive you lose sight of your business objectives
•    Treat violations of your policy just like you would any other rule violation. 
•    Don’t single out certain groups – all too common in the spring when the ladies are warned about proper attire, but the men are left off of the memo trail. If you have to send out a reminder, send it to everyone. 
•    If you have a problem employee, be discreet and tactful in your approach as it may be that the person just needs a little additional guidance. 

- See more at: http://www.pilieromazza.com/blog/what-not-to-wear-a-spring-guide-to-personal-appearance-polices#sthash.YYtPzx24.dpuf

While we may not think that spring is ever going to arrive, it is bound to show up eventually and with it we will dust off our spring wardrobe – or as many employers fear – the lack thereof. 

Spring is a troubling time for employers with respect to enforcing personal appearance policies.  I am reminded about a conversation I had at a luncheon a few weeks back where a human resources specialist asked me about requiring stockings for women and how to handle employees who dressed one way in an interview and completely changed their look come spring.  It is precisely because personal appearance is critically important to success and company image and yet also steeped in stereotypes that employers have to be cautious their policies and the enforcement of those policies do not expose the organization to appearance-based litigation.  Although there is no specific cause of action for such claims, these suits have been brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII (think religion and gender), state fair employment statutes and certain constitutional provisions. 

Examples of personal appearance stereotypes crop into our lives daily.  Take the Honorable Judge Kopf for instance who, this week, cautioned female attorneys not to dress in a manner that would entice other women to call them “ignorant slu*s,” all the while characterizing himself as a “dirty old man.”  While he was not speaking as an employer, his comments demonstrate the challenges of treating people equally in the workplace.  In 2010, Debrahlee Lorenza made national news when she sued her employer, Citibank, for telling her not to wear clothes that were acceptable and worn by other women in the office.  Flight attendants have brought claims for rules about weight and dress; while men have brought discrimination claims for policies that prohibit ponytails and earnings.  A man with a tattoo which depicted a white-hooded man burning a cross brought a religious discrimination claim, and just this week, an Alabama judge dismissed a case against a company for failing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.  

Personal appearance policies are permitted by the law as long as they are enforced even-handedly – a challenge in the spring when so many of these policies target women.  As we head into spring, keep in mind the following guidelines to maintain harmony in your workforce, but keep your professional standards on par. 

•    Review your policy for any necessary changes in the winter months and definitely before an issue arises. 
•    Ensure your policy does not distinguish between men and women or any other protected class. 
•    Check that your policy does not impact one protected class more than another (Sally, age 56, should be able to wear the same length of dress as Mary, age 24). 
•    Explain what you mean by your dress code as terms such as “business casual” or “business” may have different interpretations. 
•    Don’t be so restrictive you lose sight of your business objectives. 
•    Treat violations of your policy just like you would any other rule violation. 
•    Don’t single out certain groups – all too common in the spring when the ladies are warned about proper attire, but the men are left off of the memo trail. If you have to send out a reminder, send it to everyone. 
•    If you have a problem employee, be discreet and tactful in your approach as it may be that the person just needs a little additional guidance.

These few guidelines will help you steer clear of unwelcome summer surprises and let you focus on other things like hmmmm… SUNSHINE!

Topics:  Workplace Attire

Published In: Civil Rights Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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