UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > September 2001 Search

September 2001

Delphi Question: Supervisors and dress codes

Question #482 (received 6 August):

What limits, if any, does UCAR policy place on supervisors who require adherence to a dress code of the supervisor's own invention?

We all recognize that in some instances safety regulations dictate aspects of dress, e.g., you must wear safety glasses in the machine shop. There are also those infrequent occasions when a particular employee's dress may infringe on generally accepted notions of reasonable taste, e.g., when the holes in an employee's underwear line up with the holes in his or her outer garments.

I'm not talking about those situations. I am talking about situations where a supervisor informs staff that they must always, for example, wear shirts with collars, or long-sleeved shirts. There may be a claim of safety issues, but there are no relevant published regulations by any authority.

Can a UCAR supervisor dictate as he or she pleases in these matters, or are there constraints? If there are constraints, what recourse is available to UCAR staff who believe they are subjected to unreasonable dress codes by their supervisor? Also, what recourse if any do employees have when their supervisor dictates a dress code but doesn't follow it him or herself?

Response (10 August):

UCAR has no formal dress code and is tolerant of a wide range of tastes in attire. Some employees must conform to certain types of attire for reasons related to safety, hygiene, or customer service. For example, some employees must wear protective clothing, and some wear uniforms as part of their job.

When UCAR employees interact with outside colleagues or the public, more formal attire may be appropriate (e.g., some UCAR managers wear casual clothing to work, but wear suits to the Board of Trustees meetings). If there is uncertainty about what attire would be appropriate in various circumstances, it would be appropriate for supervisors to discuss the options with employees.

To answer your specific questions: A supervisor may dictate appropriate attire based on the supervisor's interpretation of safety requirements. If an employee feels the requirement is unreasonable, she or he should talk to the supervisor. If the employee is unsatisfied with the results of the conversation, she or he may talk with the supervisor's boss.

It would be inconsistent for a supervisor to maintain a dress code for safety (or other reasons) and not adhere to the dress code, if the supervisor works in the same environment as the employees. If the supervisor works in a different environment, then it may not be inconsistent. Again, this is an issue that the employee may discuss with the supervisor or the supervisor's boss.

Employees may always contact Human Resources to discuss such issues on a confidential basis. Without additional details, it is impossible to comment on the reasonableness of the specific situation. If the employee feels there is illegal discrimination or abuse involved (which would be violations of UCAR policy), there is a formal complaint process.

In general, I suggest that issues such as the ones you raise be discussed frankly with the supervisor in an effort to reach a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

—Bob Roesch, director
Human Resources

Questions and suggestions from the staff to management may be submitted in confidence to the coordinator, Janet Evans (ext. 1114, ML room 517). They should be submitted in written form, preferably via interoffice mail in a sealed envelope marked confidential; they must be signed. Detailed procedures for submitting questions are given in the UCAR Policies and Procedures Manual, section 4-1-2. Questions and answers of general interest to staff are submitted to Staff Notes Monthly by Janet. They may be edited for publication. For more information, including links to questions and answers published in Staff Notes Monthly and a log of all questions submitted since 1995, see the Delphi Service Web page.

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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > September 2001 Search

Edited by David Hosansky, hosansky@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Mon Sep 17 15:38:00 MDT 2001