Employees and the Burdens of Being Beautiful

Being beautiful ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Or so it seems from the legal-news headlines.

First, there are the “Borgata Babes.”  The female cocktail servers at Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, known as Borgata Babes, challenged the legality of their employer’s policy prohibiting them from gaining more than 7% of their body weight after they were hired.  The Babes lost the lawsuit, though, when a New Jersey judge granted Borgata’s motion for summary judgment. Continue reading

Delaware Court’s Dress Code Sparks Controversy (?)

Casual_v_BusinessDelaware’s Kent County Superior Court has issued a new dress code (pdf) for litigants and observers.  The dress code provides that “appropriate dress” that is “consistent with the seriousness and dignity of the judicial process” will be required to gain access to the courthouse. The dress code goes on to say that attire must be “constructed and worn in such a manner that it is not unduly revealing or offensive.”  Continue reading

Dress Codes, Harvard Style

dress-for-successEmployers have long hated the summer months for the dress-code disasters that inevitably accompany the change in seasons. The inability of people to make good fashion choices for their workplace attire has led to countless headaches for human resource professionals and managers everywhere and, in many cases, has been cited as a reason to not make the switch to a casual dress code. Continue reading

Objection! Opposing Counsel Has Violated the Basic Rules of Fashion!

A lawyer who cares a lot about shoes. That description applies to me, as I just love, love, love shoes of the high-heeled variety, in particular. There’s another lawyer who feels passionately about shoes, but in a very different way. The Palm Beach Post broke the story of a Florida lawyer who filed a motion to compel his opposing counsel to wear better-looking shoes.  Nope, I am not kidding.

In short, the lawyer felt that, by wearing old, ugly shoes to court, his opponent was unfairly garnering the sympathy of the jury.  It’s a high-drama story, far more so than even this description implies, if you’re interested.  But I just love the fact that the attorney actually noticed his opposing counsel’s shoes in the first place!  Nevertheless that the guy had the guts to file a motion about the darned things!   This story reaffirms my admiration of the justice system and sense of awe of lawyers who take the details very, very seriously.

Firm Defines “Business Casual” (a/k/a the “Nobody Wants to See Your Chest Hair” Memo)

dress-for-successWomen’s attire has been a hot topic here this week.  (See Pantsuit I and Pantsuit II). And the subject of dress codes is only getting started–it is, after all, the start of the summer.  One law firm has taken the bull by the horns.  Curtis Mallet issued a memo to associates providing some very specific instructions on what the firm considers to be appropriate summer attire. According to law-firm-tabloid blog, Above the Law, the memo was not well received by associates.  Continue reading

The Pantsuit Pandemic Part II

Whether women attorneys are guilty of poor fashion choices when it comes to courtroom attire was the topic of Part I of this post.  (See Are Women Attorneys Being Stricken by a Pantsuit Pandemic).  In this part, I propose what I believe is the “solution” to this problem.

What can and should be done about these fashion crimes?

There has been some suggestion that law schools should teach students about the dos and don’ts of fashion for their future career endeavors.  I have to giggle a little when I hear that idea.  Academia is going to be responsible for communicating fashion tips to the next generation?  Oh, come on now, I don’t think there can be too many people who actually believe that this is a viable proposition. Even if schools were to outsource the subject and hire image consultants to teach a 1-credit class called “Appropriate Courtroom Attire,” standards will still vary by some degree based on geography and the courts in which you practice.

At the risk of being laughed out of town for my inflated sense of positivity, I’ll offer my suggestion to this serious problem.  Each state’s bar association should draft a set of “Attire Guidelines,” which would then be incorporated into the bar-admission process. 

In Delaware, bar candidates who have successfully based the bar exam cannot be sworn in until they complete a set of “Clerkship Requirements.”  The requirements are what the bar association considers to be the absolute fundamentals of practicing in our State and the idea is that, after completing the requirements, no attorney will ever be totally lost when it comes to the operations of our court systems.  Candidates have to attend various types of hearings in the different state courts and participate in a variety of litigation and transactional activities.  For example, one of the requirements is that the candidate review the articles of incorporation for a Delaware-incorporated business.  Similarly, candidates could be required to attest that they’ve reviewed the “Attire Guidelines.” 

I don’t think it’s impossible, really. The toughest part would likely be reaching consensus on the guidelines.  And even that can’t be too difficult.  I mean, we’re not trying to craft a treatise on the issue, just a set of the most basic rules for dressing as a professional.  For example, pick a hemline length and stick with it. Address the color issue–are red suits ok for women to wear to court or are all attorneys, regardless of gender, expected to wear dark colors when appearing before the court?  And are open-toe shoes permissible?  (No, no, no!  I implore you!)  I’d venture that consensus can be reached on these basic tenets. 

Once there is a set of rules in place, attorneys would have no excuse that they “didn’t know any better.”  Guidelines, standards, and rules are good things.  We need structure.  We’re lawyers–it’s our nature to come up with creative reasons why the standards don’t apply to us.  If the standards are published to all, though, the leeway that comes with an unwritten rule disappears.  I think it could work. Really.