Summa Health drops dress code requiring women to wear pantyhose

Nearly two years after Akron, Ohio-based Summa Health raised the standards for its dress code, system leaders rolled out a new, more relaxed dress code in a May 24 memo to staff, according to the Akron Business Journal.

Under the latest dress code, which went into effect immediately, female employees will no longer be required to wear pantyhose with dresses or skirts. They can also wear professional capri pants and open toe/peep toe shoes.

Both male and female employees' tattoos may remain uncovered, except for facial tattoos or those that contain profanity or offensive images, according to the report. Staff can wear nose piercings, but only small studs. The rule from the previous dress code that requires employees to have natural-colored hair and neatly trimmed facial hair will remain in place.

The previous hospital administration implemented a stricter dress code in July 2015 as part of an effort to improve professionalism and safety for patients, the Akron Business Journal reported. The controversial dress code required women to wear pantyhose or tights with skirts and dresses and mandated all employees cover tattoos and have no more than two earrings per ear.

At the time, many Summa employees complained the dress code was unfair. One female employee said "it just reinforces the misogynistic attitude that women's bodies are dangerous and must be concealed. Even the nuns that work in our affiliated hospitals are wearing sandals and capris," according to the report.

According to the health system's memo, the latest changes to the dress code came after Summa officials collected feedback on the dress code from a focus group of health system employees.

"As always the purpose of our dress code is to ensure all Summa Health employees maintain a professional appearance when interacting with our patients and the community," Lorraine W. Washington, senior vice president of human resources at Summa, wrote in the memo, according to the report. "I trust you'll continue to apply these guidelines and your best judgement [sic] to determine what is and is not appropriate for your specific work environment and the safety of our patients."

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