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Brooksville's new dress code requires deodorant, underwear

BROOKSVILLE — If you want to work for the city of Brooksville, be sure that you use deodorant, that your clothes fit properly and that you cover up your wounds and tattoos.

And, for goodness sake, wear underwear.

If not, you could violate the city's new dress code.

The Brooksville City Council approved a dress and appearance policy by a count of 4-1 this month, with only Mayor Joe Bernardini casting the dissenting vote. He questioned how the code would be interpreted and enforced.

"They said you had to wear undergarments," Bernardini said, "but who's going to be the judge of that? Sometimes when it comes to certain people going bra-less, it's obvious. But who's staring to see if that person doesn't have underwear on?"

Brooksville officials say the new dress code is merely part of an extensive overhaul of the city's personnel policy.

"The policy is there if something becomes an issue or problem," City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said. "Then we want to be able to address it. It's just good policy."

After consulting with a number of sources, city officials and attorneys have come up with guidelines on how employees should maintain their "public image" from head to toe and almost everywhere in between.

Among the listed requirements: employees will not be allowed to wear clothing considered "distracting, offensive or revealing"; body-piercings should be visible only in the ear; all cuts or wounds must be covered; and halter tops, Spandex, or skirts "worn below the waistline such that the abdomen or back is exposed" will not be permitted.

Also, employees who must wear uniforms to work should keep them "neat, cleaned and pressed," according to the policy.

City department heads and managers will interpret and enforce the dress code.

Employees found to be in violation of the policy can be sent home to change and not paid for the time missed from work. Multiple violations could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

"As far as I know, we haven't sent anyone home from work because of their clothing," Norman-Vacha said. "I don't believe anything is going to happen. We haven't been having any problems."

Locally, Brooksville joins Hernando County and the School Board in implementing an employee dress code.

Former council member Mary Staib tried unsuccessfully to pitch a dress code in November 1996 after sexual harassment allegations against then-City Manager Richard Anderson.

Staib's proposed policy banned items including jeans, anything made of denim, spaghetti-strap sun dresses without jackets, excessively wrinkled clothing, flip-flop sandals, T-shirts, leggings, low-cut or revealing tops, and midriff tops.

Also, hemlines would have been required to hit the top of the knee and skirt splits would have been limited to an inch "to allow you to negotiate a step," Staib said.

Staib implied that Anderson's secretary, who later reached a $135,000 settlement after suing the city manager and Brooksville, may have dressed in a way that enticed Anderson.

"Men have it hard enough just to do a day's work and not be enticed by a woman who is not dressed properly," Staib said at the time. "If you have to bend over for the bottom file . . . that would entice any man, unless he is not completely a man."

Ultimately, Staib could not find anyone on the council to second her motion to adopt the policy. But times have changed for the only current member of the council who served with Staib.

Joe Johnston III, who was vice mayor when he rejected Staib's policy in 1996, has come around on the issue this time.

"From a management standpoint, you've got to have it on the books," Johnston said. "We're not doing it because there's people out there flaunting themselves around."

Jennifer Rey, an attorney with the Hogan Law Firm in Brooksville, doesn't expect any problems.

Rey said her firm and city officials looked at a number of existing dress codes when putting the policy together.

"It was derived from a number of sources," Rey said. "The general intent is to allow the city, as an employer, to manager its people and to establish a professional, public image."

Which, of course, includes wearing deodorant and undergarments.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Brooksville's new dress code requires deodorant, underwear 06/13/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009 10:15pm]
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