New Osceola clerk of court issues strict dress code
KISSIMMEE - Osceola County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez leaves no question about what he wants his 160 employees to wear. Three weeks after taking office, Ramirez has issued the most detailed dress code for courthouse workers in Central Florida — complete with photos of what's allowed and what's not. No more ankle-high boots with dresses and skirts. No "pants that sag, or hang too low, stirrup pants of a clinging material." And no garments with lots of sequins or beads, according to the policy, set to take effect Feb. 11. Release of the policy at the courthouse Wednesday and Thursday was met with a resounding "Huh?" from veteran employees questioning the need for six pages of rules on how to dress modestly and appropriately.Especially perplexing to court workers contacted by the Orlando Sentinel were two sentences in capital letters on the bottom of the policy's first page: "SO LET IT BE WRITTEN. SO LET IT BE DONE." Just below that appears to be Ramirez's handwritten initials. Employees who violate the dress code will be sent home to change and could face termination for repeated violations, the policy states. Late Thursday, clerk's spokesman Marvin Cortner provided a copy of the former dress code policy — which was 1 ½ pages long. The new policy was drafted because Ramirez thought some employees took advantage of loopholes and lack of specificity in the old one. The photographs, Cortner wrote in an email, will not be included in the final document for the employee handbook. Nor will the two-line quotation with Ramirez's initials, which is a stamp that indicates Ramirez's approval of internal office documents, Cortner said. "As to the source of the quote you mention, we have no comment other than it is the equivalent to 'approved by' for internal use only," Cortner wrote. "So let it be written. So let it be done" were the lines spoken by actor Yul Brynner in his role as pharaoh in the 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments." And the heavy metal band Metallica used the same refrain repeatedly in its 1984 song, "Creeping Death." No employees at the Osceola courthouse would comment publicly. "We definitely need a dress code ... but a few of those things are surprising," said one worker, who saw no need for policies prohibiting clothing displaying gang affiliations, advocating violence or making offensive statements about sex, race, religion or ethnicity. "We've never had a problem with that." Cortner said the office included a prohibition on offensive statements on clothing as a precaution. In Seminole County, clerk of court employees follow a one-paragraph dress code on professional appearance. "For example, denim outfits, shorts, halter tops, off-the-shoulder garments, western boots and all other attire unbecoming to an office environment are not to be worn in the office during working hours," the Seminole policy states. In Orange County, clerk of court employees follow a three-page dress code, which doesn't include the level of detail of Osceola County's. The Lake County Clerk's policy covers less than two pages and prohibits revealing or sloppy attire, athletic wear "and similarly inappropriate clothing." All four counties prohibitions cover halter tops, tank tops or ones with spaghetti straps. The detail in the Osceola policy includes directives such as: "skirt or dress bottoms should cover the tops of knee-length boots that are worn," with a photograph to illustrate the appropriate style. Skirts and dresses are permitted as long as they are no more than 3 inches above the knee. If a skirt or dress has a slit, it must be placed in the back. While the majority of the Osceola dress code applies to women, male employees are advised to wear dress slacks or khakis and to always wear a dress shirt, necktie and jacket while in courtrooms. When not in court, men wearing a dress shirt must also wear a necktie. Under Osceola's new policy, courthouse employees will be asked to read, sign and date a document acknowledging they have read, understand and agree to abide by the new dress code.