Don’t appear too sexy at work
“I’m Too Sexy,” a song by the English trio Right Said Fred, topped the American music charts in early 1992. The list of things the singer says he’s too sexy for include his shirt, car, hat, cat, and the song itself. On a similar note, a former employee of a New York lingerie manufacturer said last month that she was fired because she was too sexy for her job. That begs the question: may employers legally terminate an employee for being too sexy?
Here are the facts according to NYDailyNews.com. Lauren Odes was told two days after being hired at Native Intimates that the Orthodox Jewish owners were unhappy with her attire. “When I was first told that I was too hot and that my breasts were too large, I was shocked,” Odes told journalists. Odes said she was wearing a dress that day, and agreed to accommodate the owners by wearing a t-shirt, leggings, and rain boots the next day. The owners were still not pleased, and Odes said that the female supervisor telling her so also told her to “try taping down your breasts to make them appear smaller.”
The next day, Odes wore a knee-length dress, but was told that her bra straps were visible and that she would need to buy “a sweater that comes to your ankles as an outfit” or wear a bathrobe that was available at the workplace. Odes chose the bathrobe, but after enduring 15 minutes of her co-workers laughing at her, she broke down and left work to buy another outfit. She was fired while out shopping.
“She was simply fired for being attractive and for not conforming to the religious strictures imposed by top management,” said attorney Gloria Allred, who filed a gender and religious discrimination complaint on Odes’ behalf.
Or, perhaps she was fired for not being able to conform to a dress code. And, perhaps Ms. Allred doesn’t know that it’s not discriminatory for employers to require reasonable dress standards of their employees, which may include prohibiting employees from wearing revealing clothing while at work.
Odes said she thought that she was dressed appropriately for her job. Her employer thought not. Employers wanting to avoid a similar situation should consider:
• Having a written dress standard that clearly states acceptable and unacceptable forms of dress, and
• Counseling employees when they do not meet the standard in a way that does not include suggestions that could be deemed inappropriate.
And, because the heat we experience during summertime often inspires employees to become more relaxed in their dress, employers are encouraged to send their employees a friendly reminder about appropriate dress standards during the summer months.
Employers have the right to require their employees to adhere to reasonable dress standards. Employees who think that what they wear at work is unimportant should remember these words from author/editor Michael Korda: “The biggest fool in the world is he who merely does his work supremely well, without attending to appearance.”