Please Don't Come to Work Naked

How far is too far when it comes to a workplace dress code? Some say Newsweek has gone overboard; others applaud their effort.

business suit 

(Photo Credit: Robert Sheie/Flickr)

There has been much discussion lately about Newsweek's newest policy. Nothing about fair reporting or the quality of journalism; people seem to be most concerned about Newsweek's dress code.

Professional Appearance

It bears mentioning that the employees are not meeting with clients nor making public appearances. Writers who spend their day on the telephone while staring into a computer screen are being told that they must look "professional." Newsweek's definition of "professional" seems a bit intrusive.

NY Mag claims to quote directly from the manual:

Midriffs are to be covered. Denim jeans, sweat suits, low-rise pants, sneakers, sandals, flip-flops, halter tops, camisoles, baseball caps, sweat suits, T-shirts, tank tops, micro mini-skirts, shorts or anything else that is deemed unprofessional or excessively distracting are inappropriate business attire and should not be worn to work. Hair should be clean, combed and neatly trimmed or arranged.

The instructions for employee appearance go on to include taboos on hair dyed unnatural colors, uncombed hair, body piercings and tattoos. Employees deemed not appropriately dressed will be sent home to change.

The dress code reads as if it were written for children. One comment left by a reader points out that the local high school's dress code includes less rules than Newsweek's.

A Question of Discrimination

Newsweek is a private company, and as such may legally require uniforms or dress codes. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defends the civil rights of employees who are discriminated against for a protected reason, such as race or gender.

This gets interesting in the language chosen by Newsweek regarding hair:

Shaggy, messy, and neglected hair is not permissible regardless of length. Also, well-groomed, business style hair of natural color is required.

Some are questioning the definition of "business style hair," and wondering if it will be used disproportionately against black hair. Others believe that the code is sexist, and a majority of the restrictions are aimed at women's clothing.

A Vote of Confidence

BizJournal and readers seem to agree that the new dress code is a step in the right direction. The best sentence from all of the pro-arguments has to be "Dressing like pole dancers hurts the cause for workplace equality."

Agreed, but perhaps the best dress code is somewhere in between.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think about Newsweek's dress code? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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