Setting Guidelines for a Server’s Appearance

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September 28, 2011
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While employers expect employees to keep hair out of their faces, what they will not tolerate is face jewelry. Nothing is more inappropriate then to have your server come in with “snakebites”.


Now there are some restaurants where snakebite piercings would be acceptable or even perceived as cool for servers to have. The question is really about the limits of enforcing an employee dress/appearance code—where do you draw the line?

Restaurants may require employees to comply with personal hygiene, dress and jewelry codes as long as they are consistently applied among workers…It is highly recommended that restaurants incorporate these requirements in employee handbooks, in coordination with legal counsel.

The main problem you, the employer, is having is that you didn’t make your appearance policy clear from the outset in your employee manual, bulletin board postings, and employment offer.
Since an employee’s appearance can change over time, it becomes difficult to backtrack if these things aren’t clearly spelled out.  In developing a uniform policies keep in mind that for firmest legal footing and employee buy-in you should:

Allow exceptions for legitimate religious or medical reasons. For example, a head covering may be a religious requirement for a particular employee.

Keep uniform codes job-related and explain the reasons for them in training sessions. For example, jewelry can be a hazard as it can drop into food, harbor bacteria, or get caught in equipment.

Enforce your policies across the board and make expectations clear from the start. Chances are, if someone knows upfront that the job requires them to remove their tongue stud or to keep an impeccably-groomed moustache or beard using some sort of beard oils, for a very example that actually happened to me, they may simply look elsewhere. It’s best to be upfront about these things and avoid any issues down the rown.

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