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Survey Finds Tardiness and Absenteeism Up at Workplaces That Dress Down

Survey Finds Tardiness and Absenteeism Up at Workplaces That Dress Down

In a 1999 Jackson Lewis poll of over 1,000 human resources executives from a broad range of businesses, more than 70% say their companies have adopted some version of "dress down days." While hanging up the suit seems to have a positive effect on employee morale and productivity for 40% of those polled, slightly more respondents (44%) report an increase in tardiness and absenteeism. Another 30% report a rise in flirtatious behavior. One-third of those polled (33.8%) allow casual attire every day, while two-thirds limit casual attire to one day per week. However, there are rules about what constitutes appropriate attire. Those polled indicated what they deem taboo:

halter tops (31.5%); shorts (25.8%); stretch pants/ leggings (18%); jeans (14.6%); and shirts without collars (10%).

Paul J. Siegel, a Jackson Lewis partner, explains, "Employers should monitor workplace behavior to ensure that a more casual manner of dress does not lead to reduced professionalism. Workplace standards must be maintained or there will be an increase in the perception?or incidence of?harassment or discrimination."

Training Proves an Effective Tool in Reducing Volume of Sexual Harassment Complaints

Almost 70% of the companies surveyed in 1999 conducted sexual harassment prevention training on a periodic basis. This is a dramatic increase from a similar survey in 1995, when only 34% of the polled companies reported they conduct training. This increase appears to impact the number of sexual harassment complaints lodged by employees. In the 1999 survey, less than 20% of the companies experienced an increase in these type of complaints from the previous year. In the 1995 survey, 40% of those polled reported an increase in complaints from the prior year. "Clearly, corporate America is getting the message that periodic sexual harassment avoidance training is the best way to reduce the number of sexual harassment incidents," says Michael J. Lotito, a Jackson Lewis partner and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Society for Human Resource Management. "Communicating a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment is no longer an option ? it is a business imperative."

In Other Findings ...

Over one-half of the companies surveyed (55%) were sued by an employee during the previous 12 months. The most common charge was gender discrimination/ sexual harassment, reported by 27.5% of the respondents, followed by wrongful discharge (26.7%), race discrimination (21.3%), age discrimination (14.75%) and discrimination due to a disability (9.69%).

Sixty-five percent of the polled companies have a formal policy regulating voice mail, email and Internet access.

When asked to identify the most critical workplace issue facing their companies, 40% of those surveyed indicated the recruitment and retention of employees. However, when looking at the country as a whole, 27% of the respondents said the most important human resource issue facing the nation is accommodating work and family needs.

About the Survey

The survey was conducted throughout 1999 at Jackson Lewis sponsored programs around the country. Over 1000 human resource specialists and in-house counsel participated. Sixty percent of those answering the survey worked for organizations with more than 250 employees.