Dress Code and Personal Appearance Policies: Best Practices for Hoteliers

By John Mavros Attorney at Law, Partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLP | January 06, 2019

This article was co-authored by Lauren Stockunas, Associate, Fisher Phillips LLP

A personal appearance and dress code policy exists at the vortex of many competing, and often opposing, considerations. Hotels should present carefully crafted images to their guests to maximize the guest's experience, stand-out amongst competitors, and convey their hotel's theme. However, employees' individuality and personality can be stifled by a strict dress code and personal appearance policy and a strict policy can make the hotel more vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.

As such, hotels must be mindful of how gender and religious practices intersect with a personal appearance policy. If an employee's gender or religious beliefs are impermissibly impacted, a hotel risks facing a lawsuit or a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), the federal agency tasked with investigating allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, or the state agency equivalent.

Creating the Policy

All hotels should have an employee handbook clearly laying out the company's policies. Within the handbook, there should be a dress and personal appearance policy that keeps confusion to a minimum and holds employees accountable.

Dress codes and personal appearance policies exist along a spectrum, with some being extremely detailed and others left vague. A policy that is too vague risks confusing employees, diluting the hotels' image, and being difficult to enforce consistently. However, such a policy offers important benefits including maximum discretion for employers. This flexibility allows supervisors to handle concerns on a case by case basis and avoids implementing a policy that risks becoming facially illegal as the law evolves. Additionally, it can avoid the appearance of micromanagement.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.