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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Can your employer tell you what to wear?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2021 | Workplace Discrimination |

If you are unhappy with your company’s dress code, you might wonder where the law stands on the issue. With more progress being made on equal rights, you might assume your employer can no longer tell you what you can and cannot wear.

It may surprise you to learn, then, that your employer can still tell you how to dress, provided they do not breach specific rules on discrimination.

What rules must employers follow when it comes to dress codes?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides workers with protection against discrimination based on several categories. They cannot discriminate against you on the following basis:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Nationality
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Sex

Therefore, they can insist you adhere to their dress code, provided that doing so does not infringe your rights under any of those categories. State and local laws may also offer broad protections that go even further.

One area that can cause confusion is whether companies can have different dress codes for men and women. You might assume this would be discriminating against someone because of their sex. Typically courts have ruled it is still ok, provided that it does not require more on the part of one sex than the other.

Can an employer tell you how to wear your hair?

Some states introduced legislation to prevent employers from telling people how they could wear their hair. Known as the CROWN Act, it provides specific protection for hairstyles related to race and religion. An attempt to pass a similar law in Florida failed.

The laws related to discrimination and dress codes or hairstyles are not spelled out in minute detail, so both sides may feel there is room for interpretation. If you think your employer is discriminating against you, it is best to seek advice to see where you stand.