can my employer make me wear a bra, my husband’s band doesn’t want to play my coworker’s wedding, and more — Ask a Manager
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Can my employer require me to wear a bra?
I am a woman with large breasts. When I go to work, I wear a shirt/blouse and pants that are not transparent and don’t show excessive skin so private body parts are covered up.
About a month ago, my supervisor pulled me into her office and told me I need to wear a bra to work. Later that day, I asked two male coworkers who happen to be my friends if they were told to wear a bra and they said no.
Two weeks go by and that supervisor and another female supervisor again pull me into the office and ask why I’m not wearing a bra. I said that the men in the office aren’t wearing one so why should I? They told me men and women have different bodies, men don’t wear bras, and all the women in the office are wearing a bra.
Yesterday they brought me into the office again, telling me this is the last time I can come to work like this and next time I will be sent home to put on a bra. They gave me a copy of the company dress code policy, and nowhere does it say employees have to wear a bra. It does say employees are expected to be neat, well-groomed, and suitably dressed for work and that sexually provocative clothing is prohibited. I told them I have no problem with a dress code policy as long as it’s applied to everyone equally. I would have no problem wearing a bra if men were also required to wear one. They told me men don’t wear bras but women have to wear one. What should I do?
I agree employers shouldn’t be policing employees’ undergarments but legally, employers are permitted to require women to wear bras despite not requiring it of men (as long as they make exceptions for medical or religious accommodations). In the U.S., courts have generally upheld different dress codes for men and women based on traditional gender stereotypes, as long as the dress code doesn’t place a significantly higher burden on one sex. They can also, for example, prohibit long hair or nail polish on men while allowing it on women. I suspect we’re going to see more legal challenges to this, though, particularly given the obvious clash with laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, but so far it hasn’t changed legally. Until it does, employers can require bras. That’s true even if it’s not written down in their dress code (they’d likely argue it falls under general professional appearance).
So you’ve got to decide how much you want to push the issue. It’s really up to you — hell, if you want to, talk a lawyer and see if you can find someone up for testing the law — but so far they do have the right to require it.
2. My husband doesn’t want to play my coworker’s wedding
Our workplace is smallish, with about 50 employees scattered amongst separate departments. A few months ago, I had to speak with a relatively new employee, Jane. She is in a different department than I am and I rarely have to interact with her. She is a recent college grad and this is her first job out of college. She normally gives off a friendly vibe, but during my talk with her she was rather rude and basically insinuated I was stupid with the question I asked. After the interaction, I avoided her and she has said and done more things in the office that give off “entitlement vibes.” It’s incredibly frustrating.
Jane has also recently become engaged and is actively searching for vendors for her wedding. And as karma would have it, my husband has the biggest/most successful wedding band in our state. I help him run the business behind the scenes, but he is the talent and is very well known in our area.
I was replying to wedding inquiry emails recently, when it just so happens Jane had inquired about pricing. She stated in the email she’s seen the band play multiple times and in her words “NEEDS” to have them play for her day to be perfect.
I don’t think she knows the wedding band and singer she wants is my husband. (These emails are addressed to something like email@example.com.) We have a pretty common last name, I don’t go out to see him play much, and he’s only visited me a handful of times at work. My husband knows all the work drama and my frustration with this woman and he doesn’t really want me to have to deal with all of her wedding details behind the scenes. Her wedding date is out far enough that he hasn’t booked it yet. He also has a calendar on their website with dates that are open so clients can clearly see if the date they want is booked or not.
My husband suggests asking for an atrocious amount of money so she will decline herself. I think we should just respond that they won’t be a good fit and leave it at that. I want to hear what you would suggest that would be professional for myself and my husband.
Asking for a ridiculous amount of money risks blowback in ways you’re not anticipating (like if she discourages someone else from hiring the band because of their prices) … or she could even say yes. And “not a good fit” is going to raise a ton of questions about why. You’re better off just replying that it’s looking very likely the band will have a conflict with that date and so you’re not able to book it. Yes, it’s open on the website but she’s not going to know what might be happening behind the scenes. If she continues to email after that, give one firm “we won’t be available to play your wedding, best wishes” and stop replying.
3. Is it unprofessional to sit with my foot on my chair?
I am in my late 20’s, in my first professional role. I’ve worked in offices my whole work life but only in admin/research roles. I’ve never had any complaints about my professionalism at work (that I’m aware of!), but my new role working directly for the owner of a firm with billable hours and client meetings has me questioning myself.
I cannot sit comfortably in an office chair unless I have one foot tucked up under me. Sometimes I sit completely cross-legged. I know it’s weird, but I’ve always been this way. I wear high-heel ankle boots or strappy heels every day so my feet are never completely bare and exposed, and my legs are mostly concealed under my desk. It’s only if my boss comes to my desk to chat and I swivel to face him, that anyone would know. I also never ever sit like this in meetings or anywhere but my desk.
Could sitting comfortably reflect poorly on me? Or do other people do it too?
Some other people sit this way too! I wouldn’t do it in most meetings (unless it’s a very casual one) and definitely not with clients or if you sit in a public-facing area, but otherwise in most offices it’s not a big deal (with the exception of fields that expect you to be especially polished all the time).
4. My boss wants me to take a class when I’m already drowning
I just had my performance review at work. I have a very corporate job and am comfortable in my position. My boss said he wants one of my goals for the year to be getting a specific designation (ex: Jane Smith, CPA) which means lots of studying and a test.
I have two little kids, 18 months and four years old, who go to daycare full-time and don’t sleep through the night, and every day I am just spent. Is it horrible that I don’t want to take on anything additional right now? Maybe in a couple years I’ll be in a better head space for this but I just feel like I’m drowning and having the added pressure of this class and passing the test is already giving me so much anxiety. I know you are suppose to “always keep learning” blah blah blah, but can’t I just be content where I am at? Is this bad? Am I the only one like this? My kids are my life and honestly work for me is a job. I hate to say I don’t “care” about my career but ugh. Sorry for rambling. When I took this job there was no mention of additional education requirements. Can I be fired if I say no? I know plenty of moms work, go to school, etc. and I applaud them.
Your reaction is not bad and you are not the only one who would feel overwhelmed. Your situation is overwhelming enough as it is, without adding more stresses in! There is nothing wrong with saying to your boss, “Because of some things going on in my life outside of work, it would be difficult for me to pursue this right now. I’m open to revisiting it down the road, but realistically it’s not something I can take on this year.”
In a lot of situations and with a lot of bosses, that would be the end of it! Your boss may have no idea that you feel this way and might back off completely once you say no. In theory he could tell you it’s a requirement to keep your job, but unless there’s an obvious reason for him to do that (like the law has changed and this designation is now required in order to do your job), that’s probably not going to happen. If it does, you’ll figure out at that point if you’re up for doing it or not (and can consider saying the only way you can do it is if the classes and studying happen during work time) … but there’s a good chance you won’t need to.
Now, might there other costs to saying no? Sure, with some bosses there could be. (Others won’t care.) But it’s okay to make those trade-offs when you want/need to.
5. Relocation resources for job candidates
I’m working in HR for a company that provides utility services to an industrial park, and we are working incredibly hard to counteract the loss of about 30 long-time employees in the last three years to retirement. We are doing all the things you do in such situations, working with national recruiters, and trying to entice people to move to our location.
As such, I’m thinking about developing a small packet of resources to give to candidates who fly out to meet for an in-person interview. I thought I could include the names of a couple real estate agents, some information about school rankings in the area, and …. other stuff about our city. But what other stuff? Do other companies do this? What resources should we provide to people considering a move to a new location?
Yes, this is a thing companies do! You can include info on cultural attractions and local events, public transportation, the cost of living (including median rent and home prices), anything that might make your area especially appealing (maybe it’s the low cost of living, tons of nature, lots of cultural events, diversity of the schools, or a small community feel), and even quotes from employees about why they like living there and/or their favorite area spots. If you offer relocation help, make sure you give details about that as well.