Boss persecuted employee for the way she dressed, and got sued

by on August 27, 2010 · 4 Comments POSTED IN: HR Cafe
courtroom-260x173.jpg

When enforcing standards of attire, make sure to be consistent and not pick on anyone. A supervisor in an Army medical clinic in Puerto Rico no doubt wishes he’d done that.

The supervisor had a bee in his bonnet about the attire of a female employee. (At first they were co-workers, but he was later promoted.) He claimed that her clothing was too revealing, and specifically that her skirts showed her underwear.

Didn’t have a dress code
According to the employee, the supervisor went so far as to bring co-workers to her desk to comment on her supposedly inappropriate clothing. She said he told co-workers she dressed “like a woman of the streets.”

At one point, the supervisor formally counseled the employee over her clothing, but she replied that there was no office dress code and that she felt she dressed professionally.

A few months later, he sent her a memo reading: “On occasion the way you have dress(ed) has made me and co-workers very uncomfortable … In the workplace you… are required to stand, bend, reach above for documents and you need to be fully aware (of) clothing that reveals underwear.”

Fed up and frazzled, the employee sued for hostile work environment. And a federal appeals court said her case was strong enough to go to trial.

Lesson of the case: If you feel the way an employee dresses is inappropriate, refer to your organization’s dress code. If there isn’t a dress code, ask HR to come up with one. Don’t wing it according to your own tastes or personal standards.

Cite: Rosario v. Department of the Army, No. 08-2168, 1st Cir., 6/2/10.

Click to View Comments

4 Comments on This Post

  1. Jeff Seidman
    August 27, 2010 - 5:15 pm

    Interesting. Why didn’t the supervisor go to his boss and tell his that he was uncomfortable with her dress and he asked her to “tone it down” and she refused. He would have been able to assert a sexual harassment claim against her.

  2. Jeff Seidman
    August 27, 2010 - 5:15 pm

    Interesting. Why didn’t the supervisor go to his boss and tell his that he was uncomfortable with her dress and he asked her to “tone it down” and she refused. He would have been able to assert a sexual harassment claim against her.

  3. mamajana
    August 27, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    This is so true! I had a similar case where a boss felt his secretary dressed too provacatively and would show her pictures in a fashion magazine of how he wanted her to dress. Fortunately, I was able to intervene before she filed a formal complaint.

  4. mamajana
    August 27, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    This is so true! I had a similar case where a boss felt his secretary dressed too provacatively and would show her pictures in a fashion magazine of how he wanted her to dress. Fortunately, I was able to intervene before she filed a formal complaint.

Leave a Reply

Close

Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.