War And Pierce

Setting policies on facial jewelry and body art.
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This story appears in the June 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Not long ago, the only body part people pierced was the ear lobe. Obviously, times have changed. Today, an increasing number of people are piercing their noses, eyebrows, lips and even tongues. Along the same lines, more and more people are getting tattoos--and on prominent places on their bodies.

Like it or not, exotic adornment is making its way into the mainstream. How far can you go as an employer in setting policies on this type of accessorizing?

"A company does not have the right to tell a person they can't pierce their body," says Sherry Smith, president of Workforce Compliance Service, a human resources consulting firm in Midwest City, Oklahoma. "A company does have the right, however, to establish a dress code for workers on the job."

Dress codes may be based on image requirements or safety issues. For safety reasons, a manufacturing facility may restrict the type of jewelry that can be worn on the production floor. A financial services firm may prefer that employees project a conservative, professional image to clients. And as long as your dress code is not discriminatory, you have the right to establish the policies you prefer.

Smith advises making your dress code as specific as possible to reduce the risk of misinterpretation. Outline exactly what is and is not acceptable. You might limit the number of earrings someone can wear, or set a policy of "no visible tatoos."

Be reasonable when setting your dress code, Smith says. When safety is not the issue, allow your employees as much self-expression as possible while still being appropriately attired for your industry and their role in the company.

All new hires should be advised of the dress code as part of their orientation. If you decide to implement a new dress code or change your existing one, consider how you will deal with current employees whose dress may not comply with the new rules.

Finally, Smith advises, have an attorney or someone familiar with labor law review your written policy to make sure it's not discriminatory and that it doesn't violate any existing legislation.

Contact Sources

Workforce Compliance Service, (405) 737-3688, sheridasmith@juno.com

Edition: July 2017

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