Summer-like weather can mean a more lenient dress code in the workplace. But employees and employers want to make sure they're not too carefree, New Jersey experts say.

Five people standing in computer room
Catherine Yeulet, ThinkStock

Dress codes in the warmer months, or the lack thereof, open the door to several workplace issues, according to labor lawyer Kathie Caminiti, a partner with Fisher Phillips in Murray Hill.

And business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter out of Cherry Hill says workers should set their own fashion boundaries as well. You can look casual and professional at the same time.

Here are some tips, for workers and bosses, to remember when considering what to wear and what not to wear on a sweltering summer day.

Follow the dress code: According to Caminiti, summer dress codes create a more casual environment and increase morale, but it helps if companies have a clear, well-explained policy in place.

"It could very well be in your best interest to go article by article, head to toe," Caminiti said of employers' dress codes.

She's seen policies that go as far as providing pictures, showing what is acceptable and what is not.

If there's no dress code in place, and you're interested in being more comfortable at work, it's up to you to use common sense.

Keep your co-workers and schedule in mind: "Just because it's summer doesn't mean that people can start showing their bellies in the office," Pachter said. "We don't want to see it."

Articles of clothing such as shorts and short sleeve shirts may be just fine in some fields but wildly inappropriate in others.

Pachter noted a worker's attire can also depend on the agenda for the day.

"If you're not meeting with clients, if you're not negotiating a big deal — for Fridays, shorts may be fine," she said.

Project a professional image: The term "casual" can mean something different to every employee, but there are certain standards that must be met.

"Your clothes need to be clean, they need to be pressed, no holes, no frays, and they need to fit you," Pachter said.

For a lot of workers, she noted, "dressing down" just means lighter colors and lighter fabrics.

Avoid certain clothing: Some things are flat-out "no-nos" in the workplace, Pachter said.

In an office setting, avoid hats and flip flops.

"Most offices don't want to see your feet," Pachter said. "And they can be dangerous, depending on where you're working."

Join the club: If casual Fridays are encouraged, and followed by the majority of workers, you should join in the fun, according to Pachter.

"You generally need to participate also, unless you have a good reason not to, because you want to be perceived as a member of the team," she said.

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