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'My job is overly involved in how I dress, is this inappropriate and targeted?' UPDATED

'My job is overly involved in how I dress, is this inappropriate and targeted?' UPDATED


If you sense you're being treated unfairly, it's likely that you are.

"My job is overly involved in how I dress, is this borderline har*ssment?"

I've gotten a lot of different opinions from people in my life on this situation so I want to ask some unbiased people. I (24f) have been working at my job for a year and a half. I do a good job, my reviews have all been good...except for how I dress. This is my first "corporate job."

I put it in quotes because it's not really your average desk job. It's a sales office, we sell credit card machines. It's a company made up of 50 people, its a very laid back office environment. I am the receptionist...and part of the marketing team...and I do tech support...and I do office upkeep. I'm including this to show that I do a lot there.

I don't just sit at the front desk and smile at people and transfer calls. We do not have customers come into the office, the only people that come in that are not part of the staff is the occasional interviewee. The dress code is jean casual. I signed a paper saying jeans and a nice top is the dress code. When I first got the job I felt like I was over dressing.

I would wear slacks and a blouse, or a dress, or a pencil skirt and a button get the point. Business wear is not my style whatsoever. I'm an alt girly. But I know a job is a job and I sucked it up and bought clothes that were professional looking. but as I continued working I noticed everyone dressing extremely casual...I'm talking ripped jeans, leggings, slides, graphic-t's, baseball caps, hoodies.

As I continued working I realized that some of my job duties were pretty physical, sometimes I have to go into the bathroom to change the soap (if you've ever had to do that, you know sometimes that means literally laying on the bathroom floor under the sink to twist the bottle on..) or do major cleaning where I would be getting dirty.

Wearing a dress or a satin blouse, was not I slowly started dressing slightly down. Jeans that are not ripped, a nice top (not a t-shirt) and sandals or a clean white pair of slip on vans. Even that was more put together than 90% of the staff. Plus I was much more comfortable and confident.

I am the youngest employee, I feel like I still dress appropriately and I follow the dress code that was described when I accepted the job. The executive assistant Linda (64F) has taken a liking to me and has helped me be more professional with the way I interact with the CEO and things like that.

She typically wears something like tights, ballet or the pointy flats, and a blouse or sweater (but shes 64 so the blouses are well...older lady longer blouses.. you get the picture). She did my first review and said I was doing great. Later in the week she pulled me in and told me that the CEO wants me to dress better.

I was still new and trying to make a good impression so I again, bought some clothing that I felt were a little nicer but decided to stick to more of my style and colors that I liked. Since everyone else seemed to dress how they wanted too with no issue I felt like I would be able to do that too while still maintaining a professional look. Well..I guess not.

Something is always wrong with how I dress but they always beat around the bush and don't tell me what they don't like. It's always so hush hush...I don't wear leggings, I don't wear ripped jeans, I come with my hair done, jewelry...its business casual but like I said I'm a little alt so my outfits are black or sometimes patterned, I wear silver jewelry, I have a nose ring.

That they said was fine...I even asked if they wanted me to change it to a stud and they said no it was okay. My tattoos are covered up, my hair is not an unnatural color, I don't wear like heavy alt makeup, but I'm not a preppy blonde "clean girl" like their last receptionist. I had my one-year review.

Again, they said everything was great except... "Your dress isn't quite where we want it to be yet." At this point, I was fed up because I was really trying and I told them "You guys tell me this every review, I've bought a whole new wardrobe of business casual clothing even though the described dress code is jean casual. I feel like I dress more business-like than everyone else.

I don't get what I'm doing wrong." Mind you this was my one-year review and was fully expecting a raise... they've added many more job duties than what I was originally hired for... I didn't even get a $0.50 raise. I said that I have already spent a substantial amount of money on clothing to wear at this job, I can't keep on buying different clothes for this job.

They do a thing around Christmas where the higher-ups have to get their subordinates a Christmas gift. My higher-ups are the executive assistant, the sales manager, the marketing manager and the IT manager...I think they all assumed the others would get me something but none of them did. I really did not care about that at all.

Two weeks ago the executive assistant brought up the Christmas gift (she realized no one got my anything). She said that as a late Christmas gift, she wanted to get me some clothes for work. I felt pressured and in a sort of uncomfortable position so I just agreed.

She suggested just ordering stuff online, I told her Shein was cheap and had a lot of variety (please don't come at me for supporting shein...I know its terrible.) I was fully expecting her to explain the kinds of clothing they were looking for and then I would be able to have some say so in like the color at least...but no...she basically had me sit there.

She picked out different tops...they were all very older lady looking and colors and prints that I would never ever choose for myself...floral blouses, bright orange, bright yellow. One of the tops came in a leopard print. I said "oh I like leopard, I can wear that with the black slacks I have." But no...I had to get the white with blue flower print.

She got me gold I said, I wear silver, and shoes with heels, and the pointy toe flats. I was getting frustrated so I just let it happen. The clothes came in... and I was upset. I felt like they just don't like my style. I wore one full outfit she got me and I just looked like her...not an outfit a 24-year-old would wear. I decided to mix in the stuff that she got me with some of my own stuff.

Yesterday I wore a pair of boot cut jeans, a nice black long-sleeve shirt, the gold jewelry and a pair of heels that she got me. I honestly thought I looked very nice. In the middle of the day she pulled me in and said that she was getting comments about my jeans from one of the male higher-ups. The jeans had no back pockets, but they were 100% denim.

I was wearing heels, so I guess that like accentuated my legs. She told me that someone was saying that I needed to wear a top that covered my butt if I was going to wear jeggings. I was having a rough day and I finally snapped a little. I said I felt like I was getting unfairly targeted about how I dress.

I told her that I follow the dress code as described, the pants I was wearing were no jeggings, I wear the things they want me to wear, but the other women I work with continue to come in wearing leggings without their butt covered, tops with cleavage, graphic t-shirts, sweat pants, tight jeans, jogger shorts.

I come in dressed in business casual even though the dress code is jean casual and there is still something wrong with my outfit almost everyday. I would understand it if I was wearing clothing that was inappropriate but that's not the case.

I also said I'm starting to feel uncomfortable that everyone has something to say about how I look, I am the youngest woman here and I feel like they think they can push me around about things that don't affect my job performance. I walked out because I was sick of being insulted about how I dressed and made to feel insecure.

I have a meeting with her and the CEO tomorrow about it. Now I'm nervous that I'm going to get in trouble. Is this situation weird? Am I not seeing something? Or is this unreasonable and borderline workplace har*ssment?

The internet had OP's back all the way.

Feeling-Object8393 wrote:

OP, to be honest, at the moment you came in the office mixing their purchased items with your supplemented by golden colour jewellery, I was totally pissed.

Jeans and top were in your description. Stick to it. With the next comment, bring it and show it to them. Tell that you exactly follow the agreement.

Golden jewellery instead of silver? Come on. What is happening is humiliating. I would understand if you work in the front office of a luxury hotel. Then you wear a uniform. Just say politely but firm: "I don't breach the dress code description." Don't spend much time for the further discussion.

ChocChipBananaMuffin wrote:

Sounds like ha--ssment at this point. You have a meeting tomorrow, so you're not going to get a legal consult before then, but you should not commit to anything in this meeting verbally or otherwise. Play your cards close to the vest. Tell them you are considering this a fact-finding meeting and bring a copy of the dress code you signed.

Ask them to detail any instance where you were in violation of the dress code. Take notes. If they try to say you are in violation, tell them you will respond to them after you consult legal counsel. Then go get legal counsel.

Secret_Pick6524 wrote:

I've been in a professional setting for 23 years now and I have no f-in' idea how women are supposed to dress. I've been in environments where I have to wear suits and some women would wear leggings and a tee shirt with a flower on it.

And older women that dress like s-- always seem to have some issue with some younger women that don't dress professionally by employee handbook standards, but dresses more professionally than most.

fish1115 wrote:

Who exactly has been communicating these issues to you? To me it seems like the executive assistant has a problem with you and potentially some resentment. Who is doing your reviews? I hope your meeting will put an end to this.

OP responded:

The EA has been communicating most of the issues to me. The customer service manager also said something to me when I wore a form-fitting black turtle neck saying others thought it was too tight. I have to do YouTube videos for the company too, I wore a green scoop neck blouse (no cleavage) the shot was waist up, and has three rings on and a silver necklace.

The CEO looked at the footage after we filmed and said that I looked chubby (I'm 127 pounds) and that all my jewelry was distracting and had me refilm the entire thing with no jewelry, in a t-shirt with the company's logo on it and a sweater.

So I cant be sure who is the one who has the most issue.

I get a review from the EA, and the Sales and Marketing manager. the reviews with the EA are the only ones that ever talk about how I dress. The two other managers I have reviews with are male.

But with the comment about the jeans I was wearing, the EA said that a male higher-up thought they were inappropriate because they didn't have back pockets and my shirt didn't fully cover my butt but asked her to say something to me because he didn't want me to think he was looking at my butt...she didn't specify who said something. I hope the meeting puts an end to it as well.

journeyboots wrote:

I’ve also been in this position… and yes, jealousy is totally at play with older women, and also different generational expectations that haven’t evolved.

Three thoughts:

You can’t be sure the EA is not blaming her own thoughts on other people…is there another person in the office you trust to give you their opinion on your wardrobe?

I’ve been a receptionist a lot of places, even if there aren’t clients or other people who come in, their mentality doesn’t change: you’re seen as the “face” of the company, and leadership hold you to a different standard than someone who works “in the back”.

At your meeting I would mention that you that you acknowledge you’re “the face” (🙄), but have to do all these things (like changing the soap) where more formal clothes aren’t feasible, & you are trying to find a balance that is appropriate for your duties, the office setting and your age.

A day later, OP shared an update.

Okay, everyone! I just got out of the meeting with the Executive Assistant and the CEO about my dress code. First I just wanted to answer the question I was seeing a lot about why I haven't said anything to HR...well, because the executive assistant is HR...we don't have an HR department...

TL;DR: They don't like how my body looks in the clothing and the fact I wear dark colors basically. I really wanted to be prepared for this meeting, since I am the youngest and I'm a bit of a pushover I wanted to make sure I didn't get bull-dozed over in this meeting.

I printed out the section of the handbook that explained the dress code, and when I got home yesterday, I changed into the last four outfits that I had worn that I was dinged for and took pictures, including the outfit that was half my stuff and half the stuff they bought me.

This morning I went around and took a few pictures of my co-workers (I asked for consent) who were wearing ripped jeans, flip-flops, and graphic-t's.

These things are clearly prohibited per the handbook. I also brought with me a top that was bought for me, (a blouse from shein bright orange and frilly) then wore a top that I bought for the job that was fairly similar (a blouse from H&M that was dark green).

I asked if I could voice-record the meeting so I would be able to refer back to the feedback. they said okay. They started off the meeting by telling me that it was inappropriate that I argued back yesterday and walked out. (some people were confused when I said I walked out. I didn't leave work, I just walked out of the office.)

I apologized for the arguing back but followed it up by saying "I report to 4 different people and have many tasks throughout the day, you two know that Tuesdays are my busiest days and I was frustrated that I was being called away from my job duties to discuss my attire as I was in the middle of a very crucial tasks."

They tried to swerve around that statement and just went into why they brought me in. They told me that they had made multiple attempts to get me to adhere to the dress code and that I had refused to comply.

I told them that I have been trying to adhere to the dress code, pulled out the handbook, and read it out loud to them. I explained that I had been following the dress code as it is described in the handbook and asked if they could explicitly tell me what I had been doing wrong.

I had bought different clothing, I had worn the clothing that they bought me and I dress business casual even though the handbook says "jean casual" because I understand that being at the front desk means I should be dressing up a little more.

They told me that the outfits I choose to wear are distracting. I pulled out the pictures I had taken of myself and asked them to explain in detail what was distracting about these outfits because I clearly didn't understand.

Their response "The black pants with the white polka-dots are inappropriate." in that outfit, I was wearing a white flowy top that fully covered my butt and had a high neckline with white flats. I asked them to elaborate, they said the pattern is distracting. I wrote down, no patterned pants in my notebook in front of them.

The next outfit was a form-fitting black turtle neck, tucked in with a belt and cream dress pants. They said that the turtle neck was inappropriate because it was a tighter fit. I wrote down, no form-fitting tops. I then pulled out the picture of the outfit I wore which included the heels they got me and the boot-cut jeans with no back pockets.

They said the pants were highly inappropriate since they accentuated my behind paired with the heels. I wrote, no heels paired with jeans. I was keeping my mouth shut still. I then pulled out the shirt that was bought for me.

I said I'd like to know how this shirt that was bought for me and the shirt that I am wearing now are different and why one is preferred over the other. They said that the bright frilly one is more inviting and presents the message they want more than the one that I was wearing. The dark green is not inviting but the orange is. This was their reasoning for my silver vs. gold jewelry question too.

I then said, "Okay, I think I'm starting to understand." I pulled out the pictures of my co-workers. I asked, do you see how I would be confused when the rest of my co-workers dress like this every day." They said that the other co-workers are held to a different standard since they are in the back office. I just nodded.

I replied "Okay I think I understand. So patterns are not okay unless they are bright loud colors and floral print?" they nodded and smiled "And since I am in the front, I am expected to dress business casual/business professional. Not Jean casual as described in the handbook."

They smiled and nodded and said "yes, we're happy to create a new handbook for you to refer back to." and then I said "and for the other outfits, it's not really about the items of clothing, it's about how my body looks in the clothes, and my body is the thing that is distracting everyone at work. Not the clothes."

They sort of stammered a little bit and I said "I really try hard to make you guys happy but I think it's inappropriate that this whole meeting was done, taking time out of everyone's day just to tell me that my body is being looked at in a way that is distracting people from their jobs. I am very uncomfortable and am feeling s**ualized and har-sed at this point.

I understand that the dark colors and certain patterns aren't what you guys are looking for. But the other feedback you've given me is just about my body and how it looks. My compensation is not high enough for me to afford to buy any more clothing for this job." They told me that I was misunderstanding this whole meeting and that was not what they were saying at all.

The clothing I wear is not inviting and not the message they want to put out, it has nothing to do with my body. They pride themselves in being an inclusive and safe workplace and would never intentionally make anyone feel sexualized and they couldn't believe that I was interpreting this as harassment.

They said that they felt like buying me clothes was a kind gesture to help me work on my professionalism and they thought that I would have been more receptive of that. They also said that if I'd like, they can extend my hours so my compensation is raised. They said that they would be having another meeting with me about the new handbook and to look out on my calendar for it.

I was so frustrated (I am an angry crier, I did not cry but I felt it brewing.) I just smiled and nodded and asked if there was anything else they needed from me. They said no and I walked out of the office. I had so much more that I wanted to say, but I choked up and was upset I didn't say anything else. I am looking for a new job, I don't want to do this other meeting.

I feel like it's not worth trying to fight it anymore...I guess I'll just wear the 4 outfits they got me every day until I find a new job. I feel a little defeated and have a sour taste from all of this, but can't afford to just quit. But I have the recording so I'm going to research to see if maybe I have a case here. I'm not meant for corporate America...

The internet was fully invested in the update.

Separate_Slice9706 wrote:

They offered to let you work more hours so you can afford clothes that they approve of? How did they say that with a straight face?

CompleteDett wrote:

I'm so sorry, that whole place is toxic.

Those people are terrible.

They are har--sing you and s--ualising your body.

Lowbalance4404 wrote:

I really feel like you need to get a lawyer involved in this. Nothing that they are doing is appropriate. And making a manual just for one employee?

Trespasserswill wrote:

I know you think this means you're not meant for corporate America, but as someone who works in a corporate setting, I'd be pleased to work with someone with your diligence and thoroughness and work ethic. I hope you don't internalize this experience. They sound like buttheads.

Simple_Inflation_449 wrote:

OP definitely has a case. She recorded them basically saying that they were going to make a whole dress code specifically for her body type that no one but her has to follow. If OP gets a lawyer this company is in for a whole load of sh*t

Sources: Reddit
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