Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration has banned flip-flops and exposed midriffs in a new dress code for Kentucky’s more than 31,000 executive branch employees.
Personnel Secretary Thomas B. Stephens set the policy, which took effect Oct. 16, for all state workers in the executive branch. Violators could face disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
Jodi Whitaker, a spokeswoman for the Personnel Cabinet, said Monday that individual state cabinets may initiate policies with more stringent guidelines based on their needs, but all must follow the four points in Stephens’ code.
Under the policy for all executive branch employees, workers must carry or wear identification badges or other agency-identifying clothing. No one can wear flip-flops in the workplace, tops that expose the midriff or clothing with large commercial logos or offensive language. An employee may seek accommodations for religious, medical or disability-related needs.
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Whitaker said the policy would allow a polo shirt that has a small university logo but not a shirt that has an oversized name of a business.
She also said it takes into account special clothing needs in various workplaces. For example, she said, a lifeguard at a state park would have a different wardrobe than an office manager.
Stephens announced in July that the Personnel Cabinet would review existing dress codes in some state agencies and the lack of any policy in other agencies.
Stephens wanted to make sure there were clear guidelines for all employees, Whitaker said.
As Kentucky’s largest employer, the state executive branch work force “interacts with the public and other government entities on a daily basis,” Stephens said in a Sept. 30 memo to state cabinet secretaries, agency heads, human-resources executives and general counsels. “Employees, as representatives of the commonwealth, should maintain a neat, professional appearance that is appropriate for the workplace and the work being performed.”
Stephens warned that any employee who violates the policy “will be required to take corrective action, which may include leaving the work premises, and may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.”
David Smith, executive director of the Kentucky Association of State Employees, said Monday that his organization doesn’t have a problem with dress codes.
“Employers can set standards for their workers, and those standards must be clear,” he said. “Our concern is how they enforce it. If they use it to punish employees they don’t like, that becomes a major problem. We’ll see.”
On Oct. 4, Stephens implemented a more stringent dress code for the 206 employees in the Personnel Cabinet.
It bans jeans, sweatpants, pajama pants, exercise pants, camouflage pants and shorts for its workers. Casual dresses and skirts must be at a length at or below the knee with no spaghetti-strap dresses unless covered by a jacket or sweater, and men’s dress shirts must be tucked in, but polo-type shirts may be left untucked. Also taboo are tank tops, halter tops, midriff-showing tops or tops with extremely low necklines, and clothing with offensive or oversized words.
The Kentucky Labor Cabinet is giving its 400 or so employees until this Friday to sign a form acknowledging that they have read its new “policy on professional appearance” that takes effect Nov. 1.
Under it, workers’ wardrobes may not include clothing that is soiled, disheveled or in disrepair; exercise clothing; shorts; and clothing that exposes the abdomen or chest area, including crop tops, halter tops, tank tops, tube tops, midriff-length tops and shirts with spaghetti straps without a garment over them.
Also on the do-not-wear list in the Labor Cabinet are skirts, dresses or skorts that reveal the majority of the area between the top of the knee and the hip, including clothing that contains a split that produces the same result; clothing with oversize commercial writing or graphics; clothing with writing or graphics that could be considered offensive, vulgar, violent, sexual or insulting to a reasonable person; flip-flops; camouflage clothing; slippers; and hats or caps.
Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey, who wore a football uniform during his playing days in the National Football League and at the University of Kentucky, notified cabinet employees of the new dress code on Oct. 19.
“Personal appearance plays an important role in projecting a professional image within the cabinet, to the citizens of the commonwealth who we serve and to other public and private professionals with whom we associate,” Ramsey said in the policy.
He said it was intended to provide “general parameters for appropriate employee attire” and employees should “exercise good judgment and common sense about items not specifically addressed.”
Top officials in the Labor Cabinet are to dress in business attire. That means a business suit, or slacks and a jacket, with a dress shirt, tie and dress shoes for men, and suits with skirts or slacks with a blouse, dressy top and/or jacket or dress sweater with flats or dress shoes for women.
Informal business attire — such as slacks, khakis, chinos or Dockers-style twill pants with a dress shirt or polo shirt with a jacket or sweater for men and skirts or slacks with a blouse, dressy top and/or sweater or jacket for women — may be worn on Fridays by top officials unless they are to meet with the governor’s office, the legislature, the public, or outside agency management.