Interns Try to Fight Their Company’s Strict Dress Code — Immediately Regrets it

A group of interns who dared to challenge a company’s strict dress code got an unexpected response after the employers decided to fire them all immediately.

Writing to Askmanager.com, a reader shared how she found an unusually strict dress code at the company that she was spending her summer internship for.

“Even though the division I was hired to work in doesn’t deal with clients or customers, there still was a very strict dress code,” the person wrote.

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In the beginning, while she found that the company’s clothing rules were “overly strict” the letter-writer said she had no plans of complaining. However, she made a discovery one day which pushed her to rally her fellow interns.

“I noticed one of the workers always wore flat shoes that were made from a fabric other than leather, or running shoes, even though both of these things were contrary to the dress code,” she wrote.

Pissed by what she saw, the writer called upon the other interns and as a group, made a proposal with a signed petition by the entire batch of interns (except for one who refused to join).

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Focusing on footwear, the petition called for non-dress shoes that would fit within a more appropriate casual dress code. The request also sought a possibility for employees to wear a more casual but still professional dress code rather than suits and/or blazers.

All the signatories of the petition were called into a meeting the following day where they were all fired due to “unprofessional behavior.”

“We were told to hand in our ID badges and to gather our things and leave the property ASAP,” the post read.

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“Just before the meeting ended, one of the managers told us that the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in. You can’t even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.”

Alison Green, the blog’s resident expert, gave a fitting response to the now jobless intern. She said that while she understands that the company’s reaction may be a bit extreme, she also gets why employers did not appreciate the interns’ actions.

“Y’all were pretty out of line. You were interns there — basically guests for the summer. Their rules are their rules. This is like being a houseguest and presenting your host with a signed petition (!) to change their rules about cleaning up after yourself. You just don’t have the standing to do that.“

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“To be clear, that doesn’t mean that you need to suck up any and every condition of an internship. You don’t,” she wrote. “But this wasn’t something like asking you to do unsafe work or work unreasonable hours; this was asking you to abide by what sounds like a very common and reasonable professional dress code.”

The article has since gone viral and many readers have thrown criticisms to the interns’ actions focusing the blame on the “young people today.”

Green’s response to the critics reaction came via an editor’s note she added later:

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“The letter-writer’s generation is far from the first to bridle at dress codes or misunderstand office culture or start out with little knowledge of how things work in offices,” she said. “This is about being young and new to the work world, not about what generation they belong to. Most of us made plenty of mistakes when we first started work — I certainly did. So please go a little easier on this person.”

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