Who Sets the Dress Code for Women Lawyers?
In “Who Cares What I Wear to Court?” (Wisconsin Lawyer, July/August 2019), Deanne Koll reacted to a recent Twitter war regarding what women lawyers should wear to court. She admitted conforming to the “unreasonable demand” to always wear a skirt when appearing before Judge X. But, she asked, what are women to do if ignoring a wardrobe directive works to a client’s detriment?
She concluded that, to her, the Twitter warfare over the correct female wardrobe is an exercise of diminishing a woman’s worth to her appearance.
The column struck a nerve and readers weighed in:
Reader: When I moved to MA in 1993 the best thing was learning that female attorneys could wear pants to court. While it took me about three years to not wear a skirt for a trial, I did get over that.
Nancy W. Machinton
Law Offices of Nancy W. Machinton, Foxboro, MA
Reader: Sorry I missed the Twitter debate on attire for women lawyers. The author seems to frame this as a feminist issue. But the fact is, local court rules address required attire for male and female lawyers.
There was a moment in my first few years of practice when it seemed like local court rules, at least in Milwaukee County, would go the way of the Dodo. While most male lawyers still wore jackets, some were starting to lose the tie. Not every lawyer and not every day, but enough that people were starting to notice. Then all of a sudden things snapped back, and male lawyers suddenly had to wear jackets, ties, and dress shoes again, after several years of relaxed dress codes.
While I agree that female lawyers have to negotiate issues like sexism, as well as balancing professional versus feminine, in practice, female lawyers seem to have a lot more leeway in terms of local court rules for things like wearing jackets, or not, sleeveless shirts, or short sleeves, or long sleeves, and of course, dresses, skirts, and pants. Except, of course, when appearing before a sexist judge X.
But again, if the author of this piece really wants to frame this as what she should tell her daughters, I don’t think it needs to be this complicated. Lawyers have a dress code which, to some extent, they are expected to follow.
Martin R. Tanz
Tanz Law Office, Milwaukee
Reader: In my opinion, the matter can be framed in one word: Respect. All attorneys should attire themselves to show respect for the forum, respect for the profession, and respect for themselves. What constitutes respectful attire has changed over the decades but what has not changed is that attorneys have a duty to uphold the rule of law, they appear in public, and are part of a learned profession. Gender is irrelevant as long as each individual attorney’s conduct and appearance shows an appropriate level of deference and respect for the rule of law.
Voith Holding Inc., Appleton
Reader: Late to the comments, but in the whatever-it-is-worth category, I do not think the culprit is dress codes and different standards for men and women. The real problem is reading Twitter and giving a hoot about other people’s comments about your wardrobe. Just a thought.
Bjelajac & Kallenbach LLC, Racine
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Employee or Independent Contractor?
In “Consequences of Misclassifying Workers as Independent Contractors” (InsideTrack, July 17, 2019), Matthew Lein said Wisconsin worker’s compensation lawyers are seeing a growing number of cases in which injured workers have been misclassified as independent contractors, denying them access to worker’s compensation benefits.
Unfortunately, Lein wrote, abuse of the system is most often found in the construction industry and some of the other dangerous occupations. Very few of these workers are legitimate independent contractors; most are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits as a matter of law.
And, he continued, injured workers who are improperly classified as independent contractors may even have a legitimate third-party liability claim against an employer after being injured on the job. Wis. Stat. section 102.07(8) outlines several conditions that must be met to consider an employee an independent contractor.
A reader posted a comment:
Reader: For several years, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has offered an excellent website test regarding classification at https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/worker_classification/.The test covers worker’s compensation, unemployment, labor standards, and equal rights law.
Victor J. Forberger