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Employment Discrimination Report Discussions on Recent Legislation, Noteworthy Cases & Trends in Enforcement

Tennessee Judge Creates Dress Code for Female Attorneys

Posted in Sexual Harassment

The ABA Journal and the Tennessean has reported that Tennessee Judge Royce Taylor has created a dress code for female attorneys.  I have to admit that when I first saw the headline of the article, I was negatively reminded of when I first started wearing pant suits to court in 1999. I was then told by several male judges that I was not appropriately dressed for court because I was not wearing a skirt and pantyhose.  But now that I have read the article, I have to say I think Judge Taylor has a point.

Rumors initially flew that the dress code was going to require pantyhose. Judge Taylor has advised that is not correct, but has said that revealing and other inappropriate clothing will be banned.  Attorneys quoted in the article have noted that men are required to wear jackets and dress professionally.  Attorneys also gave examples of women showing up in court in sleeveless dresses, sundresses, and in one flagrant situation, sweatpants.   I have witnessed female attorneys in New Jersey wearing extremely short skirts and sleeveless dresses, which I also think is inappropriate for court.

Do you think Judge Taylor is right or is this gender discrimination?

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  • Canadian lawyer

    In many Canadian jurisdictions, courtroom lawyers are required to wear robes similar to those worn by our UK counterparts. Our only choices are whether to wear grey or black pinstripe or solid pants or skirts. I believe courtroom etiquette requires a certain amount of decorum. It may be “classist”, but it isn’t sexist. I certainly would not want to see a male lawyer come into court with a tank top, cut-off jeans or sweatpants.

  • Ontario counsel

    As another Canadian lawyer, I agree with the point on appropriate dress in the courtroom..we even have gowned motions here. Perhaps the policy would be less contentious if the rules were set for men and women…male lawyers in shorts or sweat pants are also not appropriate..and it does not show respect for the clients who are paying the fees and who often dress better than the lawyer.

  • Pennsylvania / Belgian lawyer

    I agree with a certain need for decorum. In Belgian courts, all attorneys are required to wear a rope in court, which I, also as a female attorney, always thought to be positive: the focus is on the quality of the arguments and not the appearance.

  • Lauri

    Interesting topic. As a woman who has been in ‘hot flash hell’ since my hysterectomy 23 years ago, I would have a big problem with any role that required me to wear a jacket over a dress or blouse, or robes over my clothes. I wonder if this would be a disability discrimination issue, since men and women with thyroid conditions also get hot flashes?

  • rcohenfox

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