U.S. Federal Labor Relations Authority

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United States of America

Before the Federal Service Impasses Panel


In the Matter of












Case No. 96 FSIP 137



    The Council of Locals 163, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (AFGE or Union) filed a request for assistance with the Federal Service Impasses Panel (Panel) to consider a negotiation impasse under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (Statute), 5 U.S.C. § 7119, between it and the Department of Defense (DOD), Defense Contract Audit Agency, Northeastern Region, Lexington, Massachusetts (DCAA or Employer).

    Following an investigation of the request for assistance, which concerns a dress policy for the Northeastern Region, the Panel determined that the dispute should be resolved through written submissions from the parties. Thereafter, the Panel would take whatever action it deemed appropriate to resolve the impasse, including the issuance of a Decision and Order. Written submissions were made pursuant to this procedure, and the Panel has now considered the entire record.


    The Northeastern Region is one of five regions within DCAA, whose central mission is to provide all necessary contract functions for DOD; it oversees 18 field audit offices (FAO) in 8 states. The Union represents approximately 530 bargaining-unit employees who work mainly as contract auditors. The parties’ collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired on April 5, 1993, but remains effective until a recently negotiated successor agreement is implemented.


    The parties primarily disagree over whether male employees should be required to wear a tie at all times and have a jacket available.(1)


1. The Union’s Position

    Under the Union’s proposal, employees would be permitted to dress in a manner that is consistent with the customer or host contractor, whether they are on permanent or temporary duty assignment. If, however, employees are engaged in meetings with high ranking contractors or nonDCAA government officials, they would be required to wear business attire. Regardless of the dress practices of the customer or host contractor, employees could wear attire consistent with their religious, ethnic, or cultural heritage. They could also dress in casual businesswear during the summer months (Memorial Day to Labor Day), when a "health, medical, or injury related situation" exists, or when inclement weather is "happening outside the employees’ home or predicted to happen during the day" by the local weather services. The definition of casual businesswear would prohibit employees from wearing jeans/denim, beachwear, athleticwear, and athletic shoes. Employees, however, could wear jeans/denim and athletic shoes during contractor shutdowns. The Employer also should be ordered to withdraw its proposal concerning the noncompliance provision and the information notice provision. Finally, if the Employer’s position is adopted, the Union proposes that employees receive "an initial amount of $1,000 for updating of wardrobes and an annual allowance of $500 for maintenance" of wardrobes.

    Its proposal should be adopted because auditors are professional employees who are capable of deciding for themselves what clothing constitutes appropriate business attire. Since auditors do not have any interaction with the general public, and DCAA headquarters considers defense contractors to be "teammates,"(2) it makes sense for employees to dress in a manner that is consistent with their customers and host contractors. Its approach is also consistent with a trend of casual dress policies in private firms.(3) The Employer’s proposal, however, is overly restrictive because no formal dress policy has ever been established in any of DCAA’s regions, and the need for such a rigid dress policy in the current circumstances has not been established. In this regard, there has only been one recorded incident in the last 2 years, involving an employee who wore inappropriate clothing to work, and the Employer resolved the matter adequately. On the other hand, because the Employer’s proposed dress policy equates to a "dictated uniform," and would require some employees to purchase new clothing, they should receive a clothing allowance if the Panel is persuaded to order its adoption.

2. The Employer’s Position

    The Employer proposes that male employees be "required to wear a tie but may loosen ties and collars when personnel other than DCAA employees are not present and have available a jacket/blazer at all times during the duty day." Employees could dress in casual businesswear when there is "inclement weather at the duty site," during a contractor shutdown, or "based on adequate medical documentation" consistent with Governmentwide regulations. The definition of casual businesswear would prohibit employees from wearing jeans, beachwear, athleticwear, athletic shoes, and "any other article of clothing which offends employees and others or disrupts the workplace." Employees could use their "discretion in determining suitable clothing for the duration of" office relocations and manufacturing/shipyard floorchecks "provided such clothing is deemed safe by the supervisor." Employees who do not comply with this dress policy "shall first be counseled by the supervisors and may be given a direct order to comply." Management would provide employees with an information notice to explain the dress policy. Lastly, the Union should be ordered to withdraw its proposals which permit casual businesswear during the summer months, and attire consistent with religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage.

    Similar to a decision reached by the Panel in a previous case,(4) its proposal would establish clear guidelines which would end the "guessing game" as to what clothing constitutes appropriate attire in the Northeastern Region. Since there is no consistent policy in the Northeastern Region, this proposal would provide a fair solution because it would treat all regional employees in the same manner. It would also enhance the image of DCAA as a professional audit agency. If auditors are required to wear formal business attire, their clients would be more likely to accept the quality of the work product. Clear guidelines would also reduce the likelihood of litigation over the region’s dress policy.(5) In this regard, the Union’s proposal is likely to result in greater litigation and inconsistency because each FAO would have its own dress policy. Moreover, the Union’s proposal treats DCAA auditors as equals with the contractors, which is inappropriate because auditors act in an oversight capacity. Since Federal agencies must be more sensitive to public perception, DCAA’s dress policy should not be compared with practices in private firms. Finally, the Union’s alternative proposal concerning a clothing allowance was never raised before, and "demonstrates an attitude of total disregard for taxpayer dollars."


    Having carefully considered the evidence and arguments presented by the parties, we conclude that a compromise, as set forth in the Order below, should be adopted to resolve this dispute. In our view, on the key matter at issue, the Employer has not demonstrated the need for a dress policy which would require male employees to wear ties at all times, and have jackets available. In this regard, the two incidents referred to in the record appear to be isolated and fail to show that employees’ office attire has deteriorated or otherwise become problematic. Thus, it is reasonable to continue the past practice of allowing FAOs to determine their dress policies based on the work environment. Nevertheless, we are persuaded that certain minimum dress standards should be specified regardless of what customers or host contractors wear, and that it would also be helpful to provide definitions and explain the instances where formal business attire is required. Such wording is provided in Sections 1 and 2 of the compromise.

    As to the other aspects of the dress policy over which the parties’ disagree, for the most part we believe that the wording proposed by both sides is overly detailed and unnecessary. In two areas, however, we are convinced that additional provisions are warranted. Accordingly, we shall order the adoption of a modified version of the Employer’s proposal concerning exceptions for health and safety reasons (Section 3), as well as its proposed noncompliance provision (Section 4). The former should be beneficial to employees because it specifies the only circumstances under which deviations from the overall policy would be appropriate, while the latter emphasizes the importance of complying with the standards by reminding employees that a failure to do so could result in disciplinary action.


    Pursuant to the authority vested in it by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 7119, and because of the failure of the parties to resolve their dispute during the course of proceedings instituted under the Panel’s regulations, 5 C.F.R. § 2471.6(a)(2), the Federal Service Impasses Panel under § 2471.11(a) of its regulations hereby orders the parties to adopt the following wording:

1. Under normal circumstances, employees may dress in a manner that is consistent with the dress practices of the customer or host contractor. Other than the exceptions provided under section 3 below, appropriate dress does not include: jeans/denim (regardless of style/color); beachwear; athleticwear (including spandex, T-shirts and sweatshirts/pants with or without logos, jogging and warm-up suits, shorts, leggings, sneakers, or athletic shoes), regardless of the dress practices of the customer or host contractor.

2. Formal Business Attire: If employees are participating in meetings with high ranking contractors or government officials, formal business attire shall be worn.

    a. Male Employees: Formal business attire for male employees includes a two-piece suit with a tie, or a sportcoat with trousers and a tie.

    b. Female Employees: Formal business attire for female employees includes a dress, a two-piece suit, or a jacket/blazer or sweater with a skirt, dress trousers, or business skorts.

3. Exceptions: In some circumstances, DCAA working conditions require auditors to move business and personal belongings during office relocations and to conduct floorchecks in a manufacturing environment or shipyard where a person may be required to maneuver around heavy equipment or a vessel under construction. In these circumstances, employees are required to wear not only proper safety equipment, e.g., hard-hats, earplugs, glasses, or safety shoes, but may use discretion in determining suitable clothing, e.g., jeans/denim, sneakers, or athletic shoes, provided such clothing is deemed safe by the supervisor.

4. Noncompliance with the Dress Policy: Employees whose dress does not comply with the requirements of this policy shall first be counseled by the supervisors and may be given a direct order to comply. The supervisor has discretion to direct the employee to return home to change clothing and return to duty in clothing conforming to this dress policy. Deliberate, repeated offenses shall be treated administratively, as in other circumstances where an employee fails to adhere to DCAA policy.


By direction of the Panel.

H. Joseph Schimansky

Executive Director

February 6, 1997

Washington, D.C.


1.The parties also disagree over the following aspects of the dress policy: (1) religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage exceptions; (2) definition of casual businesswear; (3) summer months exceptions; (4) inclement weather exceptions; (5) health and medical exceptions; (6) definition of exceptions to casual businesswear; (7) contractor shutdown exceptions; (8) noncompliance provision; and (9) information notice provision.

2.In the DCAA Report on Activities for Fiscal Year 1996, DCAA acknowledges that its auditors often team with “procurement and contractor officials to help expedite and improve the award of a contract.” When DoD Integrated Product Teams are established, “[a]ll team members . . . Government contract procurement officials, Government contract administration officials, DCAA auditors, Government technical specialists, and contractor officials . . . are involved during the proposal preparation, evaluation, analysis, and factfinding.”

3.According to Patricia Kitchen’s article, “Re-engineering Our Wardrobes in the Workplace,” Newsday, Sept. 22, 1996, a Levi Strauss survey of 505 human-resource managers revealed that 90 percent of companies have casual days at least on occasion. The survey found that “33 percent allow casual dress any day of the week, unless you’re meeting with a client. That’s up from 19 percent in 1992.” In addition, the Union submitted evidence showing that Peat Marwick adopted a “Dress Down Friday” policy in 1994, and both Sikorsky Aircraft and Westinghouse Norden Systems adopted a “Casual Business Attire” policy for every day of the week in 1995 and 1996, respectively.

4.Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Regional Office, Roanoke, Virginia and Local 537, National Federation of Federal Employees, Panel Case No. 92 FSIP 161 (February 25, 1993), Panel Release No. 340.

5.In the last 2 years, two employees have litigated matters concerning the dress policy in their respective FAOs.