Last week, a 43-page Dress Code Manual that UBS is piloting in a few of its Swiss branches was leaked to the press, resulting in a brief media feeding frenzy about the value of strict dress codes for employers. Most, I think, would agree that devoting 43 pages to a dress code is a bit over the top.
For those of you who are not so sure, media reports indicate that the Code addresses issues starting with hair length, style and color and running all the way down to toenail length – and hits everything in between. That includes not only underwear visibility, but also style, color and quality. Trust me when I say I have tried to find a copy of the Code on the internet, but have come up empty. A couple of the media articles can be found here and here. A quick look at the comments following both of these articles underscores the difference of opinion sparked by UBS dress code – though by my count more people seemed to find it humorous than not.
Though it is easy to poke fun at such a long and detailed dress code, it seems to me that the pendulum in many industries in fact may be starting to swing away from casual garb towards more traditional professional attire. Perhaps the downturn in the economy has forced employers to focus on the impression their employees make on customers and clients. Or, perhaps it is just a natural response to the fact that casual business attire for some workers has turned into ripped jeans and flip flops. Regardless, strict dress codes are generally enforceable so long as they do not discriminate based on any protected class status; generally, gender, religion, national origin and race are the ones that come up. In addition, employers generally may also enforce policies against visible tattoos and piercings, but should be prepared to discuss modifications to such policies in response to religious accommodation requests.