Your company dress code might be vague. It might just have a rule requiring professional clothing and hairstyles. On the other hand, it might be incredibly specific, limiting workers to certain styles or even imposing measurements as part of the dress code.
It is normal for businesses to protect their image by demanding a certain appearance from their employees. Enforcing these rules maintains a certain standard for their workers and a particular appearance to the public.
Unfortunately, sometimes the rules that they impose are absolutely unfair. When might an employee dress code be a violation of your rights as a worker?
When it imposes requirements on you because of your sex or race
Companies that demand that all women wear makeup or have manicured fingernails impose a potentially unfair obligation on their female workers. Not only will they need to invest more time in getting ready for work every day, but there are financial investments involved in maintaining a certain kind of appearance that the male employees won’t have to incur.
Dress codes can also impose unfair burdens based on race. Hairstyle restrictions often target those with naturally wavy or curly hair, like African Americans. State law has made such discrimination illegal. No-beard policies or rules about head coverings can also lead to racial or religious discrimination.
If dress code requirements impose a burden on someone because of their race or sex, the standard may be an unfair one.
When the company doesn’t enforce the rules universally
One of the easiest ways for business policies to lead to discrimination or harassment claims stems from unequal enforcement. If the business frequently targets one person for enforcement or lets one person get away with infractions, those actions may be discriminatory.
For enforcement of an employment rule to be legal and fair, the company should apply it equally in all cases. When the company picks and chooses when to apply the dress code, their actions may be a subtle form of discrimination. They could write one person up enough time to warrant a termination while others go unpunished for the same behavior.
Realizing that a workplace dress code could violate your employment rights can help you fight back against unfair company policies.