Step away from the flip-flops

The News TribuneSeptember 25, 2013 

New City of Tacoma dress code could prohibit flip-flops at work.


Should a City of Tacoma employee look at least as professional as a middle school student?

You might think that’s a given. But Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax sees a need to reinforce it with a formal dress code, which suggests some employees have been dressing less than appropriately. “When people come into this building (City Hall), and you are an employee, they need to recognize you as an employee and not a visitor . . .” he said.

City officials are working on rules for worker attire that could include a ban on flip-flops, shorts and logo T-shirts (perhaps there could be special dispensation on Fridays preceding Seahawk games and the Apple Cup).

Rules may have to be bargained with some of the city’s 26 unions, but the goal should be to have simple, easily understood guidelines that are so clear that no one would misunderstand them.

There’s nothing wrong with requiring employees to dress at least as nicely as Tacoma requires its schoolchildren to look. Although each school has its own dress code, at Mason Middle School, for example, students may not wear flip-flops, sandals or even open-toed or sling-back shoes. No logo styles (except the school’s) are acceptable on shirts.

Most businesses have at least minimal dress guidelines — or a supervisor or human resources person who will have a chat with an employee whose attire is over the top or below standard.

Many governments have dress codes, too. Some ban facial piercings or large, visible tattoos (good luck with that in the Northwest). It may be hot and humid in Miami, Fla., but that city prohibits shorts, sun dresses and flip-flops. Some cities even put into writing that employees will wear underwear and deodorant.

We hope it doesn’t come to that in Tacoma. It’s one thing to say no flip-flops, but quite another to ban going commando. And we’d really feel sorry for the person who has to check.

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