A new report highlights workplace issues unique to summer that require special attention from employers.

The Summer Workplace Issues report from XpertHR notes that many employers allow employees to dress more casually in the summer months to limit the discomfort that employees may face from commuting in the heat.

However, midriff baring tops, spaghetti strap tank tops, and short shorts, or any other excessively revealing clothing, is never appropriate for a professional setting.

It is important to communicate the summer dress code policy to all employees and train supervisors so that they know:

  • The employer's expectations
  • When the policy is in effect
  • What is considered acceptable workplace attire (e.g., golf shirts, khakis, sundresses)
  • What is considered unacceptable workplace attire

"Employers want employees to feel comfortable when coming to work, but not all clothing is appropriate even on dress-down days or during the summer," says Beth P. Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR, and author of the report.

"Clothing that the employee would normally wear to workout, do yard work, or similar activities is not suitable for work and the professional setting."

CBIA HR Counsel Mark Soycher warns, don’t forget to include part-time or temporary summer interns to the list of people needing guidance on such matters.  

"Also, it is wise to be thoughtful in selecting the messenger when communicating expectations or, in particular, when presenting corrective guidance about attire that's too revealing," says Soycher.

Hygiene and Grooming

During the warm summer months, body odor and other hygiene issues may become more prevalent. An employer should address such issues head-on before they have a negative effect on productivity, health, safety, and public image.

A grooming policy should provide notice regarding the employer's expectations when it comes to employee hygiene at work.

The policy should assure supervisors and employees that any issues will be handled in a sensitive manner so as not to embarrass employees.

Further, an employer should remember that poor hygiene and/or body odor may be related to a disability, or it might be a consequence of following certain dietary, hygienic, or other practices associated with religious affiliations or cultural or ethnic practices, and therefore an employer should be prepared to provide a reasonable accommodation.

Soycher suggests approaching such situations with an open, inquiring mind, but don’t abandon suitable and necessary job performance standards.

If an individual’s claimed beliefs or demeanor interferes with their ability to effectively perform essential job functions, including presenting a professional, respectfully attired and groomed presence that avoids offending coworkers or customers/clients, the preferred accommodation may not be “reasonable,” and possible less disruptive alternatives may need to be considered

Employer-Sponsored Social Events

While summer workplace parties or outings, such as company picnics, barbecues, or baseball games, may encourage workplace camaraderie, boost employee morale, and show appreciation, employers must take steps to decrease the risk of legal liability.

To avoid wage and hour claims, an employer should make sure attendance is voluntary, hold events outside of working hours, and avoid discussing work-related matters.

Employers should take the proper precautions with respect to alcohol and minimize the risk of any inappropriate behavior or harassment by carefully tracking alcohol intake.
Employers should take the proper precautions with respect to alcohol and minimize the risk of any inappropriate behavior or harassment by carefully tracking alcohol intake and having managers and supervisors monitor any unprofessional workplace behavior.

The employer should also make sure employees do not drink and drive.

In addition, to reduce the risk of workers' compensation claims, an employer should make sure the outing is held in a safe environment.

Further, suggests Soycher, activities should be suitable for the abilities of your workforce, many of whom may not be as young or agile as they once were, for example—cards and boccie vs. track and field.

Time Off and Summer Vacations

Summer is often a time when employees take time off to enjoy vacations and special time with friends and family.

Therefore, an employer should make sure that its policies regarding vacation or paid time off are communicated to all employees and placed in an employee handbook.

Such policies should be applied in uniform manner to prevent discrimination claims.

"A prudent employer should take note of the challenging issues the summer may present and develop a set of best practices for handling these issues in order to make the workplace more productive and efficient, as well as minimize the risk of employer liability," says Zoller.