Topic of the Week Dress Codes and Grooming at Work
Many employers require their employees to follow a dress code. Employers regulate clothing, piercings, tattoos, makeup, nails, hair and more. For the most part, these dress codes are legal as long as they are not discriminatory. For example, men and women can have different dress codes if the dress codes do not put an unfair burden on one gender. Even if a dress code is discriminatory, an employer does not need to make exceptions for certain employees if doing so would place an undue burden on the employer.
1. Can my employer tell me how to dress?
Yes. In general, employers are allowed to regulate their employees' appearance, as long as they do not end up discriminating against certain employees. It is very common, for example, for an employer to require his/her employees to wear a uniform so that all employees appear uniform.
2. My employer has dress codes for women, but not for men, is that legal?
No. Employers cannot single out or discriminate against a particular group of persons. Dress code policies must target all employees.
3. Can my employer still tell me what to wear if my religion conflicts with my employer's dress code?
If your religion requires you to wear, or forbids you from wearing, certain clothing like wearing a hijab, a yarmulke, or not wearing pants, you may have some protection. Courts have held that employers have a legal obligation to reasonably accommodate their employees' religious beliefs so long as it does not impose a burden or undue hardship on the employer under Title VII. If your employer wants to lawfully prevent you from wearing certain clothing, it must show that allowing you to wear this clothing would pose an undue hardship on the business. While customer preference would rarely, if ever, meet the undue burden test, safety hazards often will.
Thought of the Week
"We need gender neutral dress codes in the workplace. Requiring men to wear suits and women to wear skirts or dresses, while legal, is based on gender stereotypes. No matter the level of formality your dress code needs to define, make sure you're thinking from the perspective of all employees—current as well as future—and creating an environment where they can thrive."
–Katherine Plumhoff | Power to Fly
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from The Hive
How does what we wear to work impact our productivity?
- 61% of employees are more productive with a relaxed dress code
- 80% of people who have to adhere to a dress code don't find it useful
- A less strict dress code promotes self expression and increases creative thinking