Do you have to wear a bra to work?

“For some people, bras are the supportive garments they were originally designed to be in America as the alternative to corsets. But nowadays, there are more people who prefer or need the comfort of going braless who may be wondering if they can do so in the workplace without facing disciplinary action.

“Do you have to wear a bra to work?”

Thank you, Huffington Post, for asking that question. Because I have a story.

The paper was in between executive editors, and I was in charge of our newsroom. A  human resources representative told me that she had had complaints about a woman in the newsroom.

“Complaints about what?” I asked.

“That she isn’t wearing appropriate undergarments,” she said.

I stared at her. She stared back. I knew exactly what she was talking about. The employee in question occasionally didn’t seem to be wearing a bra. Yes, I’d noticed. And no, it hadn’t bothered me.

“OK,” I said.

“You need to tell her to dress appropriately for the office,” she told me.

I stared at her again.

“You want me to tell her that she needs to wear a bra to work?” I said. “Doesn’t that suggest that I’ve noticed she isn’t wearing a bra, which suggests I’ve looked at her in a way that might be construed as sexual harassment? Are you crazy?”

OK, I didn’t say that, but I wish I had. Instead, I said, “Isn’t that the kind of conversation you’re supposed to have?”

“You need to handle this in your own department,” she responded, and left.

I gave it five seconds of thought. I told a female editor to talk to her. I don’t know what she said, but the employee started wearing appropriate undergarments.

Yes, I noticed. I figured I had permission from human resources.

One thought on “Do you have to wear a bra to work?

  1. Same. Twice. First time in the ’70s, second about 10 years ago. Dealt with it both times— I started to write “handled it;” at 70 I’ve barely outgrown being 12 — the same way you did. Never heard another complaint.

    Solution seemed simple common sense to me. Perhaps knowing all the legal implications (like in the Huffpost article) clouded the HR people’s’ minds. Wouldn’t be the first time that happened, in my experience.

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