Dress Code Policies and Discrimination
Many companies use dress codes that specify what clothing is appropriate for their workplaces. This can be important when they want to project a certain image to the public and their clients. If the policy targets certain employees by treating them differently based on certain characteristics, it could be a case of discrimination.
There are certain regulations for U.S. employers pertaining to dress codes, including:
- Dress codes cannot violate labor laws
- They must follow local and state laws, which may provide employee protections other than federal ones
- They may not discriminate against their employees based on race, religion, gender, or national origin
- Companies must reasonably accommodate employees, unless it leads to undue hardship
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to dress code appearance policies. Basically, it allows employers to have these policies, as long as they follow community standards. These can include differentiating between males and females in terms of hair length or make-up, if there is not an unequal burden imposed on one gender over another. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) purports that the policies must be neutral and used consistently in nondiscriminatory ways.
Ethnicity and Diversity
Employees that wear clothing or groom themselves in ways that reflect their heritage have challenged company dress codes. For example, if a worker wore a traditional, bright Indian sari to work and was confronted about their appearance, they could claim that their attire was appropriate if other employees were wearing bright colors. This could be a case of intentional discrimination based on ethnicity. Another case could involve a company that requires employees to be clean shaven. However, this might be a problem for some whose religions require them to have beards. Disabled employees are another diverse group and may require special shoes or attire.
If an employee challenges a dress code, their company must show that the code is related to the job performance and is necessary for the business. It cannot simply be the employer’s preference. Rules have to respect racial and other differences, and should apply the policies in an evenhanded way.
Employees can request Title VII dress code policy exceptions based on a disability or religion, and the employer can make a reasonable accommodation as long as it does not create undue hardship. Then, the employer has to work with the employee to decide on a solution. The employer does have a right to request additional information about the reason for the exception.
New Jersey Policy
There is a state policy for employee dress and grooming workplace standards that can be used for private companies. Based on New Jersey and federal laws, it can be used a stand-alone policy or as part of an employee handbook.
South Jersey Employment Lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC Protect Employees from Discrimination
You do not have to be a victim of workplace discrimination. Contact an experienced South Jersey employment lawyer at the Burnham Law Group, LLC for a confidential case evaluation today. Call us at 856-751-5505 or complete an online form. With offices in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County.