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By Shari Lau Jul 13, 2015
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HR Magazine July/August 2015 What should be done when employees violate the company’s summer dress code?

Ah, summer at the office: the clap of Ryan’s flip-flops, the sight of the torn leather sandals that Joe backpacked through Europe in after college, and the length of Mary’s “skort” making you wonder if she has qualified for Wimbledon this year. You implemented a summer casual dress code policy as a nice benefit for employees, not to give yourself more headaches. So how can you reduce these wardrobe violations?

First, develop and distribute a clear, written policy that spells out expectations for office attire. Millennials and Baby Boomers may have very different ideas on what “casual footwear” means, so a policy should be specific, such as stating whether flip-flops (even the fancy leather ones) are allowed; whether all shoes should be in good condition; and, for safety reasons, if open-toe or platform shoes are permitted. Give examples or limits for major clothing types, and include a disclaimer that the employer has discretion in determining if any clothing item or accessory does not meet company standards.

Second, train your supervisors not only on the policy but also on how to approach an employee who has crossed the line. If the infraction is a minor one, have the supervisor encourage the violator to dress more appropriately going forward. If those sandals are making Joe trip on the carpet or they’ve developed their own special scent, his supervisor should be able to handle the situation quietly, one-on-one with him.

When an employee must be sent home to change to avoid a potential wardrobe malfunction or offending others, supervisors should contact HR. Nonexempt employees could lose pay for such trips; therefore, HR must decide whether sending an employee home to change with or without pay is appropriate for first-time violators. HR also may need to counsel an employee whose attire could be viewed as offensive, such as someone who wears T-shirts with political or religious themes.

Lastly, make sure that repeat or gross violations are well-documented and that the employee understands the consequences of repeat violations. Follow normal disciplinary procedures just as you would for other policy violations, and apply the procedures uniformly. Younger and older workers should be held to the same standards.

How should I handle a job applicant who has an outstanding warrant?

After finding the individual, law enforcement will bring him or her in, either to be arrested or to appear in court. That being the case, you are faced with two main questions: Must you report this applicant to law enforcement? And can the information be used against this person in a hiring decision? While you should consult with legal counsel on both issues, here are some things to consider:

  • A warrant could be issued for a misdemeanor, or even to collect taxes. Therefore, in and of itself, an outstanding warrant shouldn’t be relied on as evidence against the applicant. Talk to the applicant about your findings, and ask for details. If the circumstances of the warrant are minor in nature or not in any way job-related, you might consider giving the applicant a period of time to resolve the outstanding warrant before making a final hiring decision.
  • Is the reason for the warrant job-related? Is a candidate for a finance position accused of embezzlement? Do you have reason to believe that he or she may have committed the crime based on talking to the former employer or seeing footage of the crime in the news? If so, your attorney may advise you to drop the candidate from consideration or to postpone a hiring decision pending a conviction.
  • The candidate’s failure to respond to an outstanding warrant could indicate a character flaw. Discuss with your attorney the possibility of using this reasoning in a hiring decision.
  • In terms of reporting the applicant to the authorities, state laws may differ. Within a state, the reporting requirement may depend on the severity of the offense. You might not be legally required to report an applicant who is delinquent in taxes or child-support payments, while you are obliged to report someone wanted for a felony. (Even if state law doesn’t require it, you may feel ethically bound to report someone.) Again, check with your attorney for guidance on your state’s laws and general legal advice.

—Shari Lau, SHRM-SCP

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