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Enforcing employee dress codes

In many companies in Houston, employers may believe that it is important to “look professional” while conducting business. However, that phrase has different meanings to different people, so it has the potential to be a factor in employee dissatisfaction and even litigation if an issue arises. According to the Houston Chronicle, employers are able to set limits on the way that workers dress, but there are exceptions that federal employment law has acknowledged, and which must be honored.

Employees are protected from discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity and disability, and before developing a policy that defines the dress code, employers should explore the ways that any given rule may affect people in these classes. Cultural apparel and religious head coverings or facial hair are examples that may become problematic if an employer does not have a legitimate reason to prohibit them. For example, loose clothing may be a safety issue around certain equipment, so an employer may be able to enforce these aspects of a dress code without making accommodations, as long as they are applied equally to all employees.

The Texas Workforce Commission explains that employers should include a standard procedure for dealing with dress code violations in the company policies, and an employer has the right to expect workers to be clean, neat and free of offensive odors. Requiring workers to wear uniforms could create problems for companies that pay minimum wage, since the cost of the clothing may cause employees’ pay to fall below the legally required minimum earnings. However, reimbursement is a simple way to avoid this potential issue. 

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