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Dress-code fundamentals

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in Business Etiquette,Workplace Communication

If your written dress code policies are vague about what constitutes “appropriate” work attire or appearance, you’ll have to make judgment calls. Here is some advice:

Safety concerns. Appearance standards tied to health or safety (for example, requiring workers to wear protective clothing) should be non-negotiable But realize that the connection to safety might not be obvious to your employees, and what seems like an open-and-shut matter to you can lead to worker unrest. For example, telephone line technicians filed a grievance because their employer ordered them to remove eyebrow piercings (possible vision restriction) and suspended them when they refused. The workers said they’ll comply when the company restricts other workers from wearing other kinds of jewelry.

Gender impact. It’s OK for appearance codes to be gender-specific—regulating, say, facial hair for men or the length of skirts for women. But it’s not a good idea to have clearly more stringent standards for one gender. Note: Employers are required by law to make exceptions to their rules to permit applicants and employees to observe religious dress and grooming practices.

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