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Why would an employee claim a dress code is discriminatory? 

On Behalf of | May 30, 2024 | Employment Issues

Many businesses require employees to follow dress codes. Dress codes are often used to set a certain standard and identity for businesses – and can even be part of their brand.

However, an employee could claim that their rights are violated because a dress code policy discriminates against them. This could lead to legal issues for the business. Here is how that may happen:

Is the dress code gender-biased?

An employee could claim that a dress code is sexually discriminatory. This could happen if the standard of dress for men is different from women. For example, if men are allowed to wear more casual clothing, such as a plain T-shirt and jeans then so should women. If a dress code differs, however, and requires women to wear formal wear, such as a dress and heels while men can still wear casual clothing, then it could set sexist connotations.  

Does the dress code forbid religious wear?

Certain religions require people to wear special clothing. This clothing may be worn daily, such as skirts, hijabs and kippahs, while others may be worn on ceremonial occasions. If an employee is reprimanded for not following dress code policies by wearing their religious clothing, then it could be seen as religious discrimination. 

Do employees need to change their hairstyle to conform? 

A business could have a hairstyle preference in their dress code policies. This may include having employees wear specific cuts, no extreme colors and no unique styles, for example. However, many hairstyle policies do not consider both hair textures that are unique to certain races and cultural and religious backgrounds of hairstyles. The CROWN Act protects employees from having to change their hairstyle to conform to dress codes, including afros, locks, bantu knots and rows.

Businesses can seek legal guidance to strategize a dress code policy that protects them from discrimination claims and litigation issues.