My neighbor earns a little more than $8 per hour at Kohl’s Mountain View, which opened last August. She is grateful to have the job even though it is not a living wage. However, Kohl’s has now adopted a “black” dress code for all employees including “underpinnings.” These minimum wage employees must now purchase black clothing and have it approved by management by February 28th. To help, Kohl’s has offered employees a 30% discount off their prices. Assuming the employee purchased a pair of pants and top for $40 (including the 9+% sales tax), the employee would have to work 3.5 hours to pay for that single outfit, not including black shoes. That would be about 18% of their gross pay because most work less than 20 hours a week by management’s choice.
This dress code is bizarre in light of the fact that employees were given similar discounts last year to buy Kohl’s clothing without any color restriction. They were also told they "had to" get Kohls credit cards even though many were trying to avoid that black hole. Yet over several months, employees purchased and proudly wore Kohls clothing—a great advertisement--until the new black dress code was announced. The written notification omitted the word “mandatory” but employees were told verbally they “have to” wear black. Obviously, workers unable to comply could face the wrath of management in schedules of less than 10 hours a week, thus forcing them out.
Employees were heard in the store expressing quiet disbelief and hopelessness about how Kohls could do such a thing to these loyal employees. None of them thought it was illegal and, even if it was, would not run the risk of complaining. Employees, most of whom have no other source of income, were devastated and wondered how they could make already tough ends meet. More than a few of the employees would not even be able to purchase clothes there because of the lack of large-sized offerings.
Perhaps this is simply a way for Kohls to trim its hires from payroll. Perhaps a black dress code is a marketing technique to differentiate the chain from other retail stores. It doesn't matter. It is ironic that Kohls wants their workers to appear high-toned when they treat them so shabbily.
There should not be a color dress code for minimum wage workers period. Kohls should either rescind their proposed dress code or provide clothing from a uniform company at no cost to the employee. Until Kohls does one of the above, I will no longer patronize this 18th century sweat shop. Kohl’s defense may be the economy, but anyone shopping there knows that the problem is they have a 100% return policy no matter if the goods had been used or damaged. The store now looks like a bargain basement operation. No offense to the hard workers there, but dressing up the sow in black silk isn’t going to improve Kohl's bottom line. These employees deserve better.