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When is a dress code at work illegal?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2022 | Workplace Discrimination |

Generally speaking, employers are absolutely allowed to institute dress codes. You’ll see this if you walk into a store and all of the employees have the same color shirt on, for instance, or if you go to an office building and everyone is wearing suits and ties. The employer has a certain atmosphere they want to create, and they do it with a dress code.

However, there are cases in which dress codes can be illegal and can be a source of discrimination. It’s important to know how and why this happens.

Is the dress code being applied to everyone evenly?

One of the biggest questions to ask is just if everyone has to follow the same dress code or if it offers the same restrictions for all employees. If it is only applied to one group of employees, then it is a form of discrimination. 

For instance, it’s problematic if men are told that they are allowed to wear whatever they want while women are told that they have to follow a strict dress code.

In other cases, a dress code may be instituted as a form of discrimination against someone’s traditional dress. For instance, if all the dress code does is ban wearing certain types of clothes that are used by people within a specific religion, it could be a form of religious discrimination. This type of dress code doesn’t have any impact on all of the workers who are of a different religion or who have no religion at all, so it is unfair to those who have to change the way they dress.

What can employees do?

When employees are facing this type of discrimination and harassment at work, they need to know what legal steps they can take to make things right. If your employer isn’t hearing your concerns, it may be time to explore other options.