How to Enforce a Dress Code Policy

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One of the simplest ways to create a professional work environment is to enforce a dress code policy. There are several benefits to setting a policy at your company.

For one thing, research shows that someone’s clothing choices can impact their confidence and performance. If you work with customers and clients, it’s important for your team to dress professionally so they make a good impression. Additionally, in some workplaces, like restaurants, warehouses, and construction sites, a dress code is essential for workplace safety and health.

Wondering how to set your policy and make sure your team adheres to it? Here’s everything you need to know.

How to Set an Inclusive Dress Code

When you have a clear dress code, your team members will know what is appropriate, and it’s easier to enforce it consistently, which can help you avoid discrimination allegations. It is considered best practice to have a gender-neutral dress code so people can choose to wear what makes them most comfortable.

It can be beneficial to have an employment lawyer review your dress code policy to make sure it is aligned with all federal, state, and local laws. At a federal level, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, natural origin, disability, age (40 and older), and sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy). The EEOC requires employers to change the dress code or allow reasonable accommodations if requested. For example, an employee may request an accommodation for religious reasons or because they have a disability and need to wear adaptable shoes or clothing instead of a uniform.

How to Choose Your Dress Code

You can use these common dress code policy examples as a model and customize them to meet your needs:

  • Business Formal: This is the most formal dress code. If you adopt this policy, your employees will wear suits, button-downs, ties, knee-length skirts and dresses, dress shoes, and close-toed flats and heels. People typically wear darker, solid colors instead of colorful clothes and prints.
  • Business Professional: In business professional workplaces, employees can wear slacks, blazers, button-downs, sweaters, blouses, knee-length skirts and dresses, dress shoes, flats, and close-toed heels.
  • Business Casual: If you have a business casual workplace, your team members can wear less formal clothes like khakis, polo shirts, colorful button-downs, blazers, knee-length skirts and dresses, loafers, and close-toed flats and heels.
  • Casual: This is the most relaxed dress code. Depending on your policy, employees could wear jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sandals, casual flats, and sneakers. You could have some rules such as no ripped or torn clothing, t-shirts with inappropriate slogans, athletic wear, or shorts.
  • Casual Fridays: Some companies allow employees to wear jeans, khakis, polo shirts, and other casual clothing on Fridays.
  • Summer Casual: You could allow employees to dress less formally during the summer. When you write your policy, clarify what employees can wear, such as sundresses, jeans, and open-toed shoes, and what is not allowed. You’ll also want to note the duration.
  • Uniform: Some companies have a uniform for some, or all, of their roles. For example, a school janitor may need to wear a uniform while teachers must dress in business casual attire.

How to Enforce Your Dress Code Policy

After determining your dress code formality, you’re ready to write your policy and include it in your employee handbook. Here’s a template you can use to create a clear dress code:

  • Purpose: Use this section to explain why you have a dress code, such as to foster a professional work environment and make a good impression on customers and clients.
  • Dress Code: This is where you’ll share an overview of the dress code you’ve chosen and details like the types of clothes that are considered appropriate and inappropriate. If you have different dress codes for certain roles, like chefs and cooks versus waiters and hosts, mention the guidelines for each position. If you have Summer Casual or Casual Friday policies, mention what your employees can wear and anything that is unacceptable, like shorts and sandals. Mention if there is a specific dress code for certain tasks like client meetings.
  • Accommodations: Your lawyer may recommend you note that employees can speak to their manager or HR to ask for accommodations.
  • Dress Code Violations: Use this section to explain the consequences of violating the dress code. You can enforce your policy consistently if you have a clear process for dealing with infractions. Make sure managers and HR representatives know how to handle one-off and repeat violations appropriately.

After writing your policy and updating your employment contract, you may want to email your entire team to make sure they’ve seen it. Some companies ask their employees to sign an employee handbook acknowledgment form at their onboarding and whenever there are policy changes.

Learn More Management Best Practices

This advice will help you create and enforce your dress code policy so that you maintain a professional work environment. It takes time to research the policies that will make your company even more successful. Save time by receiving the hiring and management advice you need to know from Monster.

This article is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice. Always seek the advice of an attorney regarding any legal questions you may have.