Friday, July 6, 2012

Instituting the "Reasonable Person's" Dress Code

One thing that stinks about the East Coast is the craptastically hot weather. During a portion of my freelance gig (which recently ended), we had a heat wave in NYC. Let me break down my commute on a hot day for those of you having the benefit of traveling in a bubble of flowing air conditioning for your entire lives:

1. Wake up in an air conditioned house & get dressed.
2. Walk outside in the heat to the nearest subway station.
3. Go to subway station located underground.

Note about the subway stations in NYC: about 95% of them do not have fans of any sort in them & very few are located outside. There is NO air conditioning at ALL in ANY of the NYC subway stations that I have been in (mostly in Manhattan & Brooklyn but if there's no A/C in Manhattan, I guarantee there is none in the outer boroughs where tourists aren't visiting). Most of these stations are underground, where the heat is worse than it is outside.

4. Get on an air conditioned train. If there are lots of people on it, as tends to happen in the morning commute, the effects of the air conditioning are reduced. Sometimes, this is reduced to a minimal degree particularly if you have to carry anything with you like a laptop or a purse.
5. Switch trains at another sweaty subway station. In fact, the one I had to switch at was so hot on the other train's platform you could feel heat rising off the platform and cascading over you.
6. Get on another air conditioned train. Remember though, if there's lots of people on it you will not be feeling much of it.
7. Get off the air conditioned train and traverse out in the heated subway station to go outside, where there might be a breeze but where it could very well be sticky outside.
8. FINALLY, get into the air conditioned building where you are working.

Two more pertinent details as related to me:

1. I have sensitive skin. If you look at it weird, it will turn red. If I get too hot, I get sweaty. If I'm sweaty, I get zits. Those zits are usually in uncomfortable places & hurt like Hell. I HATE getting zits. Zits also aren't good for your skin.

2. I'm from the Southeast. If the people I knew down there are any indication, Southerners are hard core when it comes to their air conditioning. Any place you go in the South will usually have central air conditioning or at least have booming cold air anyplace you go, including in a Southerner's car (this was the case in my hometown & Atlanta, at least). I don't know a single native Southerner of my generation who was too cheap to have air conditioning in the summer & it was actually a factor for me in deciding where to go to undergrad (the school with air conditioning in all the dorms won out). Even the ones who were older & didn't have the same access to A/C as us would take advantage of it or use it themselves.

Based on this, I've concluded that Southerners are hard core when it comes to air conditioning. Not having it for a Southerner is asking for trouble. Remember also that Southerners are known for being more aggressive than Northerners, particularly when it comes to protecting their families (per sociological studies); I wonder if anyone's determined that hotter temperatures & more humidity might be a factor. Heat does make people more irritable & I tend to be much meaner if it's hot outside. I might get into a fist fight with you if you give me shit on a heat wave day over my attire.

Keeping those factors in mind, I thank God that I'm not some typical attorney in a law firm. They don't have reasonable person dress codes & demand their attorneys to show up in uncomfortable & stifling clothing in triple digit heat for the sake of "the clients."

I had a horrible experience wearing a business suit for a job interview in NC. After I graduated from college & was deciding what to do, I tried to get paid employment in NC.

I had a job interview for a position with the Department of Social Services where my interview was in the summer (early July, in fact). When I showed up for that interview in my long sleeved business suit (Have you ever seen one with short sleeves, by the way? I haven't.), their air conditioning was out. Since I didn't want to make a bad impression in my tank top I was wearing underneath, I had to leave on my stifling jacket in a room with ZERO air conditioning. It was torture. I was thrilled to get back to my car when the interview was over. No one offered to have me take off the coat & no compassion for the situation was shown.

Despite all that, I thought I turned in a decent interview. However, they took forever to get back to me. The guy I'd been dating before graduating had invited me to go to Florida with him the same week as the interview so I was also irritated about missing out on that (though he was visiting his family & based on how he acted later, it was probably better I opted out). This guy had offered me a place to stay if I returned to Atlanta, which prompted me to leave at the end of the month.

I didn't hear back about this job until I was working a couple weeks at the law firm, only to learn I didn't get it. This was only one in a series of jobs I didn't get in my hometown so perhaps I made the right choice to leave, huh? Shows that not everyone should be staying in their hometowns. I knew I wasn't going to be happy there & it felt like all this failure with job searching (back in 2003) was a sign from the universe that I didn't belong there. I got my law firm job in two weeks while I didn't have a job in NC after 2 months, despite my best efforts looking and applying for work.

It was at that time that I came up with my "dumb ass" theory on employment. I still stand by it today.

So I have sworn that when my company has an office, we're instituting a reasonable person's dress code. It seems many of these businesses haven't bothered to consider legal ramifications of someone getting heat stroke trying to get to work b/c the company made them wear something too stifling for 100+ degree heat & they had to wait in a hot subway station for the next train (I did have to get off at a hot subway station once to get a different train when the train I was on had problems; it was crowded & there was no other train to transfer to nor any breeze of any kind in that area).

The first basic rule of a reasonable person's dress code is that the employees must be adults. I'd rather not employ little children myself considering if I wanted them, I'd go adopt some or have them myself. I don't know why more companies haven't followed suit.

My basic stance on a reasonable person's dress code is to dress reasonably for the weather without showing your private parts with equal opportunity for both sexes. If men get to go shirtless, then women get to wear bras or bikini tops; if it's too horrid, they can also go shirtless. The men also get to wear shorts.

This dress code would also state that everyone gets to wear comfortable shoes. You DO know that high heels cause collapsed arches. Personally, I'd rather not have collapsed arches. If that's not enough to scare you, watch Sheila E.'s episode of Unsung. She talks about how she ended up losing height & having all kinds of health problems due to her touring schedule & how her footwear was a contributing factor.

Of course, this dress code would be optional. If you want to die in the heat or get collapsed arches, be my guest. You just won't get to sue my company over it since you made the voluntary choice to dress that way. If the air conditioning is blasting, you need to bring a sweater for the office; I always do that in case I get cold & will wear it as needed.

As for clients, a free tip: you want people to be comfortable & in a good mood when you meet with them. You do NOT want to meet with me when it's triple digit temperatures outside & I've been forced to endure stifling train platforms and gotten super sweaty on my way to the office. There are certain environments I make sure to stay clear of since it would be a disaster for all concerned such as working in small confined spaces on hot days.

Court would also be a place that should be doing this but we all know that's never going to happen unless we get some much younger judges who don't like dying in the heat. We CAN, however, start setting this up in private businesses. If the tech people were able to get casual dress into the corporate/office workplace, then we can surely get a reasonable person's dress code in there as well. Especially in light of global warming & the documented long term damage of high heels to women's feet, legs and general health.

Honestly, I think higher ups in companies not instituting this stuff go to work in NYC via cabs, personal drivers, any method not involving the subway & live in a cocoon of constant cold air since only a sadist piece of garbage would demand someone to show up in sleeves on a heat wave day. That person should be forced to wait at the 4/5/6 downtown bound platform in Union Square during morning rush hour during every single hot day in NYC for 3 of the hottest summers. That would teach a lesson.

Also, if you are a bus driver & you don't cut on the air conditioning at full blast when it's over 80 degrees, prepare for me to loudly comment on how you're going to cause a lawsuit against the MTA b/c of someone getting heat stroke (and I will make sure those aggrieved people get to sue the pants off you by finding them a lawyer & informing them of how quickly they have to file the proper paperwork). If it's a heat wave day & you have no air conditioning on, be prepared to die a slow & painful death. If the heat doesn't get you, I will.

I wonder if my theory on Southerners is true. You'd think every single business in NYC run by a Southern transplant would have A/C & then some but I don't know for sure if that's the case. I'll tell you this: I would deal with that expense if I were one of these business owners since I'm not spending time in an unbearably hot space. Society as a whole doesn't want me doing that either & the lawsuit will probably cost more.

No comments:

Post a Comment