Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller implemented a new dress code requiring Texas Department of Agriculture employees to wear clothing “in a manner consistent with their biological gender.”
Agency employees, including contract employees and interns, who violate the standards will be “subject to corrective action” and asked to leave the premises and change their clothes.
Although the dress code—implemented April 13—instructs supervisors to discuss the matter privately with offending employees, repeated violations may include “remedies up to and including termination.”
Miller told Spectrum News that the new rules became necessary following employees returning to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a low-regulation guy. I didn’t really want to put in a dress code,” said Miller. “But after COVID, when everybody was working from home in their pajamas on their couch, you know, they kind of brought that same attitude back to the agency. So, it was disruptive. … It was not professional.”
An employee of the Agriculture Department told Texas Scorecard that, in addition to employees showing up in pajamas, there was another instance of a man wearing inappropriate and revealing clothing and using the women’s restroom, making female employees uncomfortable.
The dress code includes standards for both men and women and encourages employees to “demonstrate good judgment and professional taste.”
All employees, regardless of assignment, are expected to present themselves in a professional manner that cultivates a favorable impression from coworkers, other government officials, agency customers and the general public.
Requirements for men include buttoning shirts near the collar, not tucking pants into boots, and tucking in button-down shirts. Women cannot wear pajamas, sweatpants, or skirts more than four inches above the knees. Western wear is encouraged for both men and women.
Fluorescent hair colors and facial piercings are also banned.
The policy instructs both men and women to dress in accordance with the rules, stating, “You are a professional, look like one.”
American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Brian Klosterboer has claimed in an interview with the left-wing Texas Tribune that Miller’s dress code violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for requiring employees to dress according to their biological sex. Title VII prevents employers from discriminating against individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
However, Miller said that the dress code follows state law and that the Texas Agriculture Department still has the authority to implement policies that promote the agency’s success.
“Common-sense dress code policies are still legal in the state of Texas and at the Texas Department of Agriculture,” Miller told Texas Scorecard. “TDA’s policies are in the best interest of our employees and the constituents we serve.”