Tips for minimizing summer dress code mishaps at work


Summer has arrived, but with the warmer weather, your employees have started dressing for the heat without always considering what might be too informal for the workplace. What can you do to help avoid these dress code challenges?


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.

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