New dress code addresses skirt length, upsets employee

Dear Joan:

I was reading what you have to say about dress codes and recently a new policy was put in place where I work.  (I work in a home where we serve older adults).  Apparently, now there is a required skirt length of not more than 2" above the knee. 


It seems there are only two people (myself included) that would be addressed with this issue, as most people do not wear skirts, or only wear below the knee skirts here.  I have never worn a skirt that was revealing anything it should not. (Mine measure about 4 to 4 1/2" above the knee).  I also do not wear my skirts at my knee or below. 


I have been in the professional work world for many years and I have been employed here for four years. It has never been a problem before.  I also wear heels everyday; I'm tall and have long legs.


I know that any policy must be enforceable.  I'm looking for a constructive argument for my case.  Do you have any words of wisdom or should I be job hunting?



If you want to leave your job for 2” of fabric, that is your choice. You have the right to dress the way you want outside the workplace but your employer has the right to set a dress code that is reasonable, and I think two inches above the knee is reasonable. In fact, most workplaces would object to short skirts, regardless of the business they are in. Companies don’t want to deal with any sexual harassment issues.


Your job title (at the bottom of your letter) shows that you are a program director. Your

job may require you to bend down and bend over—not just stand straight. Unless you’ve figured out how to do that in a short skirt and heels (something the rest of us haven’t been able to pull off), you may show more than you think you do. In fact, as a tall woman with long legs, you are already showing a lot of leg, even if you stand perfectly still.


Dress codes are designed to create a standard guideline for all employees. Of course the objective is to present a professional image to residents, families and colleagues —not distracting or provocative. Dress codes are also designed to keep employees and customers safe.  As a tall woman in heels and a short skirt, you may be distracting, provocative, or even unsafe.


You probably are a striking woman, and you take pride in your appearance. No doubt you enjoy your image and you are free to dress the way you want to show off your assets—just not at work. After all, these folks may be old—but they’re not dead.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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