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Does your employer’s dress code discriminate against you?

If your employer has a dress code in place with which you must comply, can you do anything about it if you disagree with it?

Probably not, unless you can prove that the dress code discriminates against you under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or one or more of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the National Labor Relations Board regulations. If it does not, the Houston Chronicle reports that employers have every right to impose dress codes as long as they have a valid business reason for doing so.

Title VII compliance

To comply with Title VII, your employer’s dress code must not discriminate against you or any other employee on the basis of one of the following:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability

Specific permissible dress code examples

When it comes to your work apparel, your employer can require that you pay for and wear a uniform. Even if the dress code does not specify a uniform, however, it can still forbid the wearing of t-shirts or other clothing that contains offensive writing, graphics, symbols, etc.

As for your hair, the dress code cannot require you to cut it, but it can require you to cover it with a hairnet or other appropriate covering if you work around food or dangerous machinery. The same goes for bulky or dangly jewelry.

Finally, your employer cannot prevent you from having tattoos, but it can require you to wear clothing that covers them, such as long-sleeved shirts or blouses, especially if other employees or customers might find them distressing or offensive.

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