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
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?
Answered on August 10, 2001
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
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