While the question arises as to whether flip-flops/socks should be banned in schools, what about in the workplace?

Can employers impose dress rules on their employees – regardless of the rules of good taste – and in particular ban the wearing of certain garments?

While the principles are simple, their application is more confused. Let us try to shed some light on this.

First of all, the employee has the freedom to dress as he or she pleases in the company

However, the employer may restrict this freedom in order to meet safety or commercial requirements: in particular, it is possible to impose the wearing of safety shoes or smocks if these constraints are justified by the work stations. Similarly, Bermuda shorts may not be worn by an employee who has to move around in premises where there are customers, or an estate agent may prohibit its employees who are in contact with customers from wearing tracksuits. It should be noted that there is only one step between tracksuits and flip-flops/socks…

The employer must be able to demonstrate that the restrictions he intends to impose on the freedom of dress of his employees are justified by the nature of the task to be performed and proportionate to the aim sought. This is often where the task becomes complicated, and subjective notions such as “good taste” or the requirement of “proper dress” can prove difficult to secure.

Finally, it should be remembered that restrictions must be non-discriminatory: the prohibition of a male waiter in a large restaurant from wearing an earring was found to be discriminatory. It could be risky to ban the wearing of flip-flops/socks only for employees in Marseille…

In conclusion, a general ban would not be consistent with the state of the law.

And despite the dress codes of elegant company managers, it seems difficult to prohibit the wearing of flip-flops/socks apart from safety requirements (risk of slipping, lack of foot protection, etc.), or commercial considerations related to the company’s image.

Emilie Meridjen, partner in labour law

About Sekri Valentin Zerrouk

Sekri Valentin Zerrouk (SVZ) is an independent firm of more than 50 lawyers that advises multinational companies, leading investment funds, small and medium-sized companies and entrepreneurs on the development of their business activities and on their acquisitions, disposals and restructuring operations in France and abroad.

With more than 400 transactions completed over the last 10 years, Sekri Valentin Zerrouk (SVZ) is today one of the most recognized firms in the transactional field.

The 12 partners are : Franck Sekri, Pierre-Emmanuel Chevalier, Géraud de Franclieu, Emmanuelle Vicidomini, Antoine Haï and Olivier Legrand (Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity, Financing, Restructuring), Emeline Peltier (Real Estate), Yamina Zerrouk (Public Business Law, Urban Planning and Real Estate), Jérôme Assouline and Thomas Verdeil (Tax Law), Emilie Meridjen (Employment Law) and Anne Dumas-L’Hoir (Business Litigation).