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.

The cocktail servers alleged that the hotel created a culture of humiliation and harassment with its dress
beautiful woman_3code but the court disagreed, finding that the policy did not constitute unlawful gender-based discrimination.  Particularly noteworthy was the court’s commentary about the potential problems associated with using the term “babe” to describe a workforce:

From the court’s perspective, the term “babe” is at best undignified and at worst degrading. . . . Regardless, there are people in our society who view “babe” as playful flattery . . . To the chagrin of those in our society hoping to leave sexual stereotypes behind, some of those people are female. And some of these people may be among the plaintiffs.

But “undignified” isn’t reserved just for cocktail waitresses.  Bob Ambrogi tweeted earlier this week about the news organization in L.A. that reminded its female employees to dress professionally, particularly when attending a court hearing or other matter at the courthouse.  Ok, well, the memo wasn’t actually addressed to, “All Female Journalists” but only women received it.

Dress codes are tough stuff.  They make for awkward conversations and lots of grey areas.  And it is entirely appropriate for a news agency to require its reporters to dress with the appropriate level of decorum whenever they are in court.  But was it really only the women who had to be “reminded” of the policy?  Maybe it was but it sure wouldn’t have hurt to send the memo to all hands on deck.

The subject of appropriate decorum and dress code for the legal profession brings us to our final story of the day.  As reported by Sean O’Sullivan of the News Journal, a recently admitted Delaware lawyer has raised quite a stir about his job-search strategy.  Said strategy involves an email to nearly every lawyer in the State, to which he attached a picture of himself (a “selfie”) wearing a Villanova t-shirt (my alma matter, no less), with the sleeves rolled up, displaying his well-toned arms (i.e., his “guns”).

The stir over this unsolicited and unconventional email was soon trumped by the half-naked selfie posted on his Facebook page (which, of course, is public), with a  handwritten sign taped to the mirror in which the words “lawyer” and “escort” were used in a single (grammatically incorrect but multi-colored) sentence.  I’m quoted in the article as saying, among other things, that the whole thing is”just wrong on so many levels.” Indeed.

Really. If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself.  And, while you’re there, be sure to check out the video the hopeful job seeker posted in response to the criticism he’s been receiving.  And, yes, the video does include him flexing his guns for the camera.

BONUS:  I know, I know. I said that was the final story for today.  But here’s a Friday-morning bonus for you.  At Mashable.com, there’s an entertaining comic titled, “The Pros and Cons of Being Tall.”  Happy Friday!

See also

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

I’m Too Sexy for My Job

Exotic Dancer Claims Sex Discrimination

Ex-Banker Says She Was Fired for Being Too Sexy

Employee Fired When Boss Finds Her Sex Blog

Delaware Court’s Dress Code Sparks Controversy (?)

Delaware’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.”  Casual v Business

The dress code goes on to identify certain types of clothing that are prohibited for court appearances, including:

  • Clothing that depicts swear words, violence, drugs, or alcohol use;
  • Muscle shirts or tank tops
  • Halters or bare midriffs
  • Mini Skirts (no more than 4″ above the knee when standing)
  • Hair curlers, hats, or head coverings (except those worn for religious purposes)

The Superior Court dress code seems to me to be, well, pretty easy to satisfy. Really, are we asking too much that a litigant take off his hat when he comes to court?  I’m all for casual and all for comfort; but there’s a proper place and time. 

Apparently, though, requiring a party to remove his or her hair curlers prior to taking an oath of honesty is too much for some.  U.S.A. Today, no less, has picked up the story in a piece called, Judges crack down on inappropriate clothes in court.  According to the story, some worry that the dress code will result in unequal access to the courts.


If anything, the dress code improves equal treatment in the justice system.  If a litigant does not have the foresight to wear something other than a t-shirt bearing a marijuana leaf to his court hearing, then the dress code actually helps him and ensures that he doesn’t act contrary to his best interest.

I have my own opinions (and lots of them) on dress codes and attire policies–I’ve linked to a few of them below.  Our friend, John Phillips, takes a similar approach to the issue and has inked quite a few outstanding posts on the dress-code topic, as well.

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

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

What Happens When You Fail to Follow Workplace Dress Codes in BigLaw

Workplace Dress Code Is Cut Short. Really, really short.

Facial Hair: Style Statement of the Unemployed

Honey, Does This Outfit Make Me Look Unethical?

NYT Says the Man-Short Is Headed to an Office Near You

“Are You My Lawyer or the Janitor?” The lawyer’s dress-code pendulum swings back.

Dress Codes, Harvard Style

Employers 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.  Dress Codes from the Ivy League

Just ask educators. Uniforms in public schools are more popular than ever. When everyone wears the same thing, social status becomes much harder to identify.

Harvard apparently has its own take on the “school uniform” idea.  It’s set to release it’s own clothing line, called “Harvard Yard.”  And, according to Fashionista, the line isn’t cheap–we’ll have to wait and see how a $220 pair of pants impacts the wearer’s perceived social status.

See other posts on dress codes:

Objection! Opposing Counsel Has Violated the Basic Rules of Fashion!
Has Employers’ Belt-Tightening Led to Well-Heeled Workforce?
Firm Defines “Business Casual” (a/k/a the “Nobody Wants to See Your Chest Hair” Memo)

What Not to Wear to Work: More Style Rules for the Modern Worker

What Happens When You Fail to Follow Workplace Dress Codes in BigLaw

Workplace Dress Code Is Cut Short. Really, really short.

Facial Hair: Style Statement of the Unemployed

Honey, Does This Outfit Make Me Look Unethical?

NYT Says the Man-Short Is Headed to an Office Near You

“Are You My Lawyer or the Janitor?” The lawyer’s dress-code pendulum swings back.

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.

Has Employers’ Belt-Tightening Led to Well-Heeled Workforce?

NPR aired a story claiming that employees are paying more attention to their wardrobe as a result of layoffs and belt-tightening.  Has workers’ attire become more conservative and just better looking lately?  And, if so, is the appearance improvement possibly a tactic being used to prevent termination? image

If this idea is based in reality, doesn’t it imply that employees believe that dressing better is just plain better?  So why do they settle for less-than-better unless they think their jobs are on the hook?  Maybe the ones who don’t “dress better” (as in, “improved”), should be rewarded because they (a) always strive to “dress better” (i.e., look their best); or (b) have enough confidence in themselves, their fashion sense, and their employer.

There may be something to it.

See recent posts relating to workplace attire:

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

What Not to Wear to Work: More Style Rules for the Modern Worker

What Happens When You Fail to Follow Workplace Dress Codes in BigLaw


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

Women’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. 

Oh, boo hiss to them.  dress-for-success

The memo is hilarious.  It’s to the point and it leaves little room for doubt.  I think it’s a model for excellence in the dress code category!!  Visit Above the Law for the full memo but here’s a few highlights in the meantime:

By all means resist the urge to acquaint us with your chest hair. If you think it necessary to impress the ladies with your efforts at the gym over the winter, think again – we are not a particularly good demographic for that.

For the ladies, the situation is a bit more complicated, pitfalls abound and I need to be circumspect. In brief, save it for the clubs or the beach.

So, to the haters out there, I say this:  The memo is right, we don’t want to see your chest hair!

Other, related posts:

What Not to Wear to Work: More Style Rules for the Modern Worker

What Happens When You Fail to Follow Workplace Dress Codes in BigLaw

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.