How casual should your office dress code be?

By Shannon Geis
June 7, 2016
Body of Knowledge Domain(s):

Is it time to loosen up the dress codes at your office? A recent news article described the “End of the Office Dress Code” and based on recent conversations on the MGMA Member Community some practices are reexamining their policies, particularly regarding tattoos.

“As cultural norms shift and the attitudes of our physicians adjust, they would like me to take a new look at our policy to allow ‘tasteful’ tattoos to remain uncovered,” wrote John O’Conner, FACMPE, practice administrator, Five Valleys Urology, Missoula, Mont., on a member community thread starting off one of many discussions on the issue. “How in the heck do I delineate this is the bugaboo.”

Some administrators worry that once they change a policy to be more casual, employees will abuse it.

“Once you move beyond having the tattoo covered, you are wading hip-deep in a yet-to-be-filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” wrote Frank J. Chapman, MBA, chief operating officer, Ohio Gastroenterology Group, Columbus. “Value judgements do not good human resource policies make.”

Whatever your policy is, you probably want to make sure employees are aware of it before they come to the office.

Patient reactions influenced office policy for Arroyo Medical Group Inc. in Pismo Beach, Calif. “We have a large population of elderly patients who are afraid of people with tattoos and facial piercings,” wrote Marty Robles, practice administrator. “Bottom line – no visible tattoos or facial piercings are allowed in this office. (We will permit facial jewelry if it is there for religious reasons.)”

Other members believe they have more significant things to worry about than dress code.

“In my opinion there are infinitely more important things to be concerned about in the medical industry. I feel that such a policy is unnecessary discrimination,” wrote Donovan Miske, CMPE, CPPM, practice administrator, Flint Ob/Gyn, Mich. “Focus on patients, not erroneous details like tattoos and I promise you’ll have a better practice and a happier staff.”

But not everyone agrees. “This is not discrimination of any kind for an employer to say that employees must follow a dress code, which makes customers/patients feel more comfortable and at ease,” wrote Wendy Steward, CMPE, MBA, practice administrator, Yuma Gastroenterology, LLLP, Ariz.

“We are here to serve our patients, not our own wishes or desires. If the company wants to display a certain image, employees need to flex to their policies/procedures; it’s a free world. They can choose to work where they can be more open and free to express themselves.”

Have you recently loosened your dress code policies? Tell us about your policy: and read the full discussion on the MGMA Member Community here.

Shannon Geis, Staff writer/editor, MGMA

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