Tehama County

Regular Item

PERSONNEL - Director Missi Bullington


Category:Study Session


  1. Printout
  2. Dress Code §1305

Financial Impact

There is no financial impact.


a)              Board discussion and possible direction to staff regarding Personnel Rule §1305: Dress Code


b)              Request Board adoption of Personnel Rule §1305: Dress Code


On December 18, 2018, the Personnel Ad Hoc committee brought forward Personnel Rule §1305: Dress Code. The Board voiced concerns with the dress code as presented, and it was referred back to the Personnel Ad Hoc committee.


After the board meeting, the dress code was discussed at Personnel Ad Hoc committee meetings and a Department Head meeting. These groups expressed an overwhelming support for the need for a dress code because it communicates what is considered to be appropriate work attire. This is demonstrated in the following items.


Careful vetting: This document has been brought forward with careful consideration and vetting. This is the 28th version, of which about 50 employees at varying levels provided direct input. This rule has been a work of collaboration and compromise for almost two years.


Support from Department Heads: There is unanimous support from the Department Heads to adopt this rule. This support comes from the understanding that as written, each Department Head retains the authority and responsibility to determine appropriate dress for the work being done in their department. When this code failed to get a vote, I received many phone calls from department supervisors who expressed that this rule covered the standards they wanted in their departments. They were disappointed that the Board did not see it this way. It was suggested that each department adopt their own dress code. Throughout the development of this rule, no Department Head asked to be excluded from the process to create their own rule. When you consider the hours already put into the development of the rule and the people involved, it would be inefficient to throw it away and start over. This would multiply the work by twenty-seven.


Compromise with the union: There were at least six meet and confer meetings with Joint Council to discuss this rule (each lasting about two hours). During those meetings, Personnel listened to Joint Council’s concerns and made compromises. The union had significant input on this rule.


Specificity of terms: The Board voiced concerns that some terms were too broad and employees wouldn’t understand what was expected of them. The problem with being too specific is that the rule would be several pages long, due to all the different clothing options. The rule as presented was discussed at length in the committee, and with department heads, and unions. These groups collaborated to define terms that would be the least confusing to the majority of people. If an employee has any doubts about whether an item is appropriate from the description in the rule, they can ask their supervisor for examples.


Reasonable accommodation: An employee with a disability can request modification of the dress code as a reasonable accommodation. The mechanism for this is already in place (interactive accommodation process). An example of this would be to wear a specific type of shoe due to a foot condition that is a result of diabetes. Accommodations for other issues, such as religion, would also be considered.


Legal consideration: In general, it is problematic for supervisors to address subordinates of the opposite sex about their inappropriate clothing choices. Male supervisors are especially hesitant to approach women because they don’t want their motives to be questioned. Without a dress code providing guidelines, these observations could be considered subjective, which could have legal implications. Maintaining consistency is also critical to avoid discrimination claims. A consistent dress code would ensure that no employee is allowed (or not allowed) to dress a specific way based on a protected class - such as age, gender, etc.


Health and safety issues: The dress code contains guidelines designed to protect employees from injury, and would allow the County to enforce safety restrictions related to dress.


Denim is allowed: The phrase “Denim pants may be allowed at the discretion of the Department Head” has been added to the standards. When this rule was brought forward before, the rule did not ban jeans. Instead, it set the standard for most departments as “business casual”. For departments such as Ag, Industrial, Maintenance, etc., jeans were already determined to be acceptable. The additional language expands the standard to include denim pants, if the department head chooses.


Athletic-style shoes may be allowed: The phrase “athletic-style shoes may be appropriate (all black) if they don’t have the appearance of work-out shoes (neon colors, etc.)” has been added to the rule.


Financial impact: In many discussions regarding the dress code, it was determined that clothing that fits the dress code is typically not more expensive than other clothing. There could be an initial financial impact for employees who may need to purchase clothing that fits into the dress code. Some Department Heads have suggested allowing a transition period of a few pay periods in order for employees to budget accordingly. Clothing under the dress code would not be subject to a uniform allowance because clothes selected for work would be acceptable to also wear away from work. The employees that currently receive a uniform allowance do so because their clothing is specific to their job and is not appropriate to wear when not on duty.


Professional Image Countywide: It is important that employees present a professional image. Our employees are the “face” of Tehama County. According to a recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management, 80% of employees do not receive promotions based on the fact that they are not “dressing for the job”. The lack of dress guidelines or ability to provide feedback does not prepare our employees for professional growth opportunities.


Application to elected officials: In the General Provision Rule, it states that the Personnel Rules do not apply to elected officials. Elected officials may use their own discretion to determine appropriate dress for the many events they attend as part of their position.


It is for these reasons the Personnel Director respectfully requests adoption of this Personnel Rule §1305: Dress Code.