According to Philippe Weiss, attorney and managing director of Seyfarth Shaw at Work, business leaders should consider the following tips to avoid dress code mishaps at work:
- Prep with a policy ... PRE-summer. Develop and distribute a specific Summer Dress Code policy preferably before facing the heat. Include examples of what is not (and, if helpful, what is) summer-appropriate attire. Resist the urge, however, to include any photos/images of "what not to wear." Then explain, and train, regarding your policy.
- "Float" toward summer casual season. Some companies experiment with a "floating" casual day, where employees can pick a day each week to "come-in-casual" (so long as no key customer/client meeting is planned). By allowing employees to "Dress Your Way, One Day" each week, employers can identify and address issues earlier or throughout the year, thereby avoiding a potential dress code drama deluge on the first day of warm weather.
- Don't mangle dress code management moments. Supervisors often get tongue-tied (or way too descriptive) when advising staff members of potential dress violations. Develop higher-level "Dress-Code Designees" who are trained to appreciate privacy concerns and to safely describe your company "Dress-pectations."
- It's about the apparel, not the anatomy. Dress code conversations should be focused on the "your apparel" standard — not on your employee's specific skin vs. clothing ratio.
Finally, once you have a policy, team, and plan in place, don't panic. Courts tend to support reasonable dress code enforcement. Sometimes the solution is as simple as adding a layer or turning a shirt inside out to address a risky/risqué slogan.
Source: Seyfarth Shaw at Work, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 8000, Chicago, IL 60606; telephone: 312-460-6242.