Ask The Experts: Summer Dress Code

Question: How do we address a situation where an employee is coming to work dressed too casually even for our more relaxed summer dress code?

Answer: As the summer months make for hotter days, it’s common for people to wear more comfortable clothes such as flip-flops and tank tops; but if you don’t specify in your dress code that those are (or are not) allowed in the workplace, you may find yourself dealing with what some may deem “too casual” dress.

Consider beginning the summer by redistributing your dress policy (either electronically or by whatever method you use to distribute policies) to all employees to serve as a gentle reminder of workplace expectations — even during the relaxed summer months. The policy could include pictures of anonymous “dos and don’ts” (but no images of current or former employees to avoid any type of embarrassment or specific criticism) to clearly define what is appropriate in your workplace.

In regard to a specific employee, his or her manager/supervisor should simply address the issue with the employee and remind him or her of what your workplace policy clearly demonstrates as appropriate and inappropriate. Importantly, any type of discussion about attire should not emphasize sex or gender because this could be construed as discriminatory or harassing. Rather, address the specific items of clothing as problematic (tank top, shorts, flip-flops, etc.) and apply all standards consistently and fairly throughout the workforce.