Starbucks New Dress Code Lets Baristas Get Creative With More Than Just Frappucinos

Randi Klein Hyatt
Randi Klein Hyatt
07/28/2016

I always enjoy when I can write about topics or interests in my personal life, that cross into my professional life (see my blog post from the beginning of the year on CrossFit and an FBI male applicant’s sex discrimination claim).  As an avid coffee drinker (an Americano with cinnamon is my go to), I could not resist the chance to write about Starbucks recently updated and very publicized “relaxed” dress code announced earlier this week:  “The new Starbucks Dress Code announced today invites baristas to shine as individuals while continuing to present a clean, neat and professional appearance.  Effective immediately, a range of shirt colors beyond solid black and white are welcome, including gray, navy, dark denim and brown, including patterns. Shorts, skirts, dresses and pants, including dark-wash jeans, are all part of the Starbucks wardrobe, and partners are invited to make a statement with hair color, so long as coloring is permanent or semi-permanent, in keeping with food-safety standards. To cap the look off, beanies, fedoras and other suitable hats are welcome.”

There is even a Starbucks Dress Code Lookbook to confirm, with pictures and descriptions, what is and is not permissible under this newly written policy.  If you have 5 minutes to spare in your day, perhaps while drinking your morning or afternoon pick-me-up, take a peak.  It is one of the very most detailed and specific, while trying not to be, dress code policies I have read in my 20-plus years of being an employment lawyer.

While there are so many aspects of the policy I find interesting (“If your socks are not a focal point of your outfit (if pant legs reach near your ankles), feel free to wear a pop of pattern or color”), peculiar (how will store managers reasonably be able to determine if hair dye is semi-permanent versus a temporary wash-out-in-3-days application), and unexpected yet understandable (perfume or highly fragrant grooming products cannot be worn, as the smell can affect the taste and aroma of our coffee).   This last items is unexpected because normal work place bans on fragrant products typically stem from smell sensitivities/disabilities that others may have, and not because of the employer’s desire to keep the aromatic focus on the main selling point.  But it makes perfect sense.

On the union front, the policy transparently encourages its employees to wear insignia:  “One reasonably sized and placed button or pin that identifies a particular labor organization or your support for that organization is acceptable.”  I wonder if unions will challenge this because the employee may only wear one button and/or only support one such organization.  Actually, I don’t wonder.  I’m sure that will happen.

Fear not, the iconic green apron remains a steadfast requirement (laundered, free of holes, tears, stains, and wrinkle-free).

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