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Can Work Dress Codes be Unlawful?

It is just a fact that some jobs require certain clothing or gear to keep the workplace sanitary and the employees safe. For this reason, many employers adopt some kind of dress code policy that governs what their workers can and cannot wear on the job. For example, a large law firm can require all associates to wear a formal suit every day. Hospitals can require nurses to wear scrubs, and a fast food restaurant may require a uniform with a hairnet if needed. Other employers may have vaguer policies that still limit how an employee can dress, including “business casual attire” or allowing jeans on Fridays.

While most workplace dress codes may seem justified, they may not be entirely fair. In some cases, a dress code can discriminate against certain workers or can cause greater hardship on certain staff members. Below are some examples of potentially unlawful workplace dress code requirements in the U.S.:

  • Requiring all men to have clean shaven faces or have clean cut hairstyles may be discriminatory against members of certain religions, races, or cultures who traditionally have beards or long hair.
  • Not allowing headgear of any kind may discriminate against certain religious groups, including men who wear yarmulkes or women who wear hijabs.
  • Requiring everyone to wear the exact same outfit may discriminate against certain individuals with disabilities who may require special shoes or clothing due to their condition.

The descriptions above are all examples of how a dress code policy may be discriminatory. Even if a policy is not obviously discriminatory, it may be unlawful if it has a disproportionate impact on employees. For instance, if an employer allows all men to dress casual yet requires all women to dress up, it places an unequal burden on the women employees and violates the law.

If your employer has a dress code that you cannot follow due to religious beliefs or disability, you have the right to ask for a reasonable accommodation to deviate from the dress code. Because deviating slightly from the dress code usually does not cause undue hardship for your employer and does not make the workplace unsafe, your employer should grant you a reasonable accommodation.

The information above lists only some examples of how employer dress code policies can violate employment discrimination laws. If you have specific questions about your dress code, call our office today.

Find Out How an Experienced Employment Law Attorney can Help You

If your employer has a dress code policy that is discriminatory based on your sex, gender, religion, or race, or a policy that has a disproportionate effect on some employees, you should discuss the policy with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. At the law firm of Robert S. Norell, P.A., we can advise whether or not a dress code is in violation of anti-discrimination laws and can find solutions for your employer to change the rules or compensate you for any harm you suffered. Please call today at 305-405-9243 for assistance.

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