Workplace Attire Policy

Policy Statement

Workplace attire must be neat, clean, and appropriate for the work being performed and for the setting in which the work is performed. Uniforms may be required for certain positions. Departments may determine appropriate workplace attire for their area. Supervisors should communicate their department’s workplace attire and appearance guidelines to staff during the orientation and evaluation period or during the trial period. Any questions about the department’s guidelines for attire should be discussed with the immediate supervisor. Regardless of dress, all staff must carry or wear the Duke identification badge at all times while at work. In patient care areas, the identification badge should be prominently displayed according to department guidelines.

Policy Details


  • Staff are expected at all times to present a professional, businesslike image to patients, visitors, customers, students and the public. Acceptable personal appearance, like proper maintenance of work areas, is an ongoing requirement of employment with Duke.
  • Certain staff may be required to meet special dress, grooming and hygiene standards, such as wearing uniforms, depending on the nature of their job.
  • At its discretion, schools/entities/departments/units may allow staff to dress in a more casual fashion than is normally required. On these occasions, employees are still expected to present a neat appearance and are not permitted to wear ripped or disheveled clothing, athletic wear or similarly inappropriate clothing.
  • Any staff member who does not meet the standards set by his or her school/entity/department/unit will be required to take corrective action, which may include leaving the premises to change clothing. Hourly-paid staff will not be compensated for any work time missed because of failure to comply with designated workplace attire standards.

Rationale for Workplace Attire

There are three business-related reasons for implementing workplace attire guidelines:

  1. to ensure safety while working;
  2. to present or create a professional or identifiable appearance for patients, visitors, customers, students or the public; and
  3. to promote a positive working environment and limit distractions caused by provocative or inappropriate dress.

Workplace Attire Standards/Guidelines

Each school/entity/department/unit must determine its own definition of acceptable attire and grooming standards. This process should weigh the school/entity/department/unit’s operating environment, industry norms, safety considerations, the nature of the jobs being performed and currently acceptable business dress standards.

The process of creating standards can be approached in a number of ways to include:

  • Providing basic guidelines and relying on staff members’ judgment and supervisors’ enforcement of the policy.
  • Listing specific acceptable and unacceptable clothing and grooming habits.
  • Establishing a committee to create standards and settle disputes.

Whatever approach is chosen, it should attempt to set standards and guidelines that conform to the operational needs of the school/entity/department/unit and is applied uniformly.

Tattoos and Body Piercings

Many supervisors are concerned that visible tattoos and body piercings such as nose rings and tongue studs may offend some of their customers and co-workers. While tattoos and piercings may be examples of self-expression, they generally are not recognized as indications of religious or racial expression and, therefore, are not protected under federal discrimination laws.

Whether a school/entity/department/unit should specifically address tattoos and body piercings in its standards/guidelines, generally depends on the nature of the business and customer contact. Most employers that have guidelines dealing with tattoos and body piercings limit restrictions to staff who have contact with the public and only require that the tattoos and piercings not be visible. In addition, any limitations imposed should be gender neutral to prevent sex discrimination claims.

Religious Issues

A school/entity/department/unit’s workplace attire guideline must not violate Title VII if it interferes with a staff member’s observance of religious practices since Duke must accommodate a staff member’s religious beliefs unless the accommodation creates an undue hardship. Any questions about Title VII compliance should be reviewed with the Office for Institutional Equity or Staff and Labor Relations.

Special Requirements

Every workplace attire and appearance standard and/or guideline should include a statement that certain staff may have to meet special attire, grooming and hygiene standards. Normally, these special standards are invoked for health or safety reasons, customer/patient contact or other business-related considerations. Often, these requirements may include the wearing of uniforms, certain types of safety equipment or general professional dress. If the staff member is going to be required to wear uniform or special equipment, then rules covering ownership and maintenance responsibility of these items should be carefully spelled out.

Casual or Dress-Down Days

Many Duke departments/units allow staff to dress more casually at least on limited occasions. Organizations that implement dress-down guidelines often find that they are inexpensive benefits that improve staff morale and, in some cases, increase productivity. The most common periods for casual dressing are Fridays and the summer months. Some departments/units use casual dress days to reward staff for a job well done, such as the completion of a project, team goal or in recognition of perfect attendance.

Departments/units that adopt dress-down guidelines should still set parameters defining what appropriate casual attire is in order to prevent inappropriate appearance. For example, guidelines should specify whether "casual" means dress slacks and jackets or jeans and sweat shirts. In addition, guidelines should identify what days will be designated as casual dress, what standards apply for staff who see customers/patients or attend outside meetings, and who to consult for more information on what is appropriate dress under the guidelines.

Addressing Workplace Attire and Hygiene Problems

Enforcing Duke’s Workplace Attire policy can present delicate challenges for even the most skilled human resource professional. Violations of the policy can range from inappropriate clothing items to offensive perfumes and body odor. If a staff member comes to work in inappropriate dress, the typical response is to require the staff member to go home, change and return to work.

Problems with hygiene can be more difficult to address and remedy. If a staff member’s poor hygiene is at issue, the supervisor should discuss the problem with the staff member in private to prevent unnecessary embarrassment and should point out specific problems to be corrected. The same approach can be used with a staff member who wears too much perfume or cologne. If the problem persists, supervisors should follow the normal corrective action process for repeated standards of conduct and behavior infractions.

Policy Number: 04.06


Workplace Expectations & Guidelines Policy