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What is a Discriminatory Workplace Dress Code?

Nov 23

It’s common for a workplace to have some sort of dress code that employees are required to follow. When employers set dress codes for their employees, it can sometimes raise questions regarding discrimination if one group feels that these policies single them out. Discriminatory dress codes do occur, but determining if one is discriminatory can be complicated. In many cases, dress codes are completely legal. For example, some workplaces may require business casual attire or have a uniform that all employees wear. In addition to dress codes, many workplaces have grooming policies, requiring their employees to be clean and well-kempt.

Dress codes are often necessary for a business to maintain a certain professional image or keep employees safe, but when can they be discriminatory? The employment discrimination lawyers at Brown Kwon & Lam can help if you believe you’re being discriminated against.

Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination related to workplace dress codes can be hard to recognize. In many workplaces, you may find that men and women have minor differences in what their dress codes require. This can seem like gender discrimination, but it isn’t always considered as such.

Often, for a dress code to be considered gender discrimination, it needs to place a heavier burden on one gender than the other. This means that while slight differences in dress codes may be acceptable, one gender can’t be subjected to stricter policies that cause hardships when the other isn’t. For example, it could be gender discrimination if female employees are required to wear heels and dresses, while male employees don’t have to adhere to a dress code. Whether or not a workplace dress code discriminates based on gender can depend greatly on the exact situation, which is why an experienced gender discrimination lawyer is necessary.

Religious Discrimination

There are several ways that dress codes and grooming policies may violate a religious employee’s rights. Various religions have rules regarding what attire and grooming practices are appropriate for those in it. This can include examples such as head coverings, tattoos, and how long hair and facial hair should be kept. Religious employees who wear head coverings or certain clothes, such as long skirts, may need to be given accommodations if they have strict dress codes. Some workplaces may also require men to wear their hair short or be clean-shaven, which could go against their religion. While workplaces may be able to require employees to hide tattoos for legitimate business reasons, it may be a religious discrimination issue for employees with religious tattoos.

Disability Discrimination

Some disabilities can make it difficult for employees to follow strict dress codes and uniforms. Depending on the dress code and the disability, an employee may experience discomfort or pain during their shift. Some disabilities can also make it difficult for employees to put on certain articles of clothing that aren’t adaptive, which could be the case if they have a uniform. If a reasonable accommodation is available that can help an employee with a disability be more comfortable in their work clothing, an employer is expected to provide it to prevent disability discrimination.

Take to a New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

Although it can be difficult to know if an employer’s dress code is discriminatory, if it’s causing hardships for employees, it’s worth speaking to an employment discrimination lawyer. At Brown Kwon & Lam, we help employees in New York City who have suffered due to various types of workplace discrimination.

If you believe your employer is discriminating against you, contact us today.

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