Polo Ralph Lauren Challenges Dress Code Claims

November 8, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. has denied allegations that it requires store employees to buy and wear Polo clothing at work, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story.

Polo issued the statement in response to a September 18 th lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court by Polo employees.   The suit alleges employees are required to buy and wear the latest seasonal clothes or face reprimand.  

Polo says its dress code, which is not a “uniform requirement,” does not require employees to purchase the latest seasonal fashion.

Captive Audience

The initial suit was filed by Toni Young, a sales associate who has worked at a Polo San Francisco store since 1997.

Calling the employees “captive customers,” Young’s attorney Patrick Kitchin said his client, who makes approximately $22,000 a year, has spent more than $35,000 over five years on Polo clothing to meet the retailer’s uniform requirement.  

These “captive customers” constitute a violation of antitrust laws, giving Polo an unfair competitive advantage, Kitchin went on to state.  

On the Bandwagon

Since the initial suit was filed, Young’s attorneys report being contacted by as many as 50 other Polo employees in several states alleging the same violatoin.

“All of them confirm the pressure that was put on them to stay current, to buy the uniform” defined by Polo as up-to-date Polo fashions, Kitchin said. “It’s consistent across every store.”

However, he said, those who have contacted him have noticed Polo becoming more relaxed on its uniform policy in recent weeks, not requiring employees to purchase Polo apparel.

U niforms that employees in the state are required to wear are the financial responsibility of employers, according to California Labor Commission attorney Miles Locker.   Locker noted that the commission is investigating alleged violations by other national retailers who operate stores in California.

Young, an African American, has also filed a discrimination suit against Polo charging biased treatment towards her.   Polo has challenged that charge as well.