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Is your company's dress code discriminatory?

Time was when companies could dictate more or less exactly what their employees could wear to work. Such is not necessarily the case today, however. While no federal law or policy exists that prohibits employers from establishing and enforcing dress codes, they must be careful when doing so.

DWD.com reports that employers’s dress codes must comply with rules and regulations promulgated by such federal entities as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, etc. In addition, they must comply with the laws of any states in which they operate.

Discrimination questions

If you believe your employer’s dress code is discriminating against you, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the company have a legitimate business purpose for its dress code?
  • Is the policy written?
  • Does it apply to all employees?
  • Does the company enforce it evenly?
  • Does it make exceptions for employees who belong to a protected class, i.e., race, religion, ethnicity, color, gender, disability, age, etc.

If you can answer “no” to any of these questions, you may have a legitimate discrimination complaint against your employer.


If your company requires you to wear a uniform, California law mandates that your employer, not you, pay for it. If you work in retail and your company requires you to wear its own merchandise and no one else’s while at work, again, your employer must cover the cost of such clothing.

Hair, jewelry and tattoos

Your employer has the right to insist that neither your hair nor your jewelry poses a health or safety hazard to yourself or others. For instance, if you work around food or dangerous equipment, your boss has a legitimate business reason for requiring that your hair and jewelry not come into contact with it. Your employer likewise has the right to insist that you cover any offensive tattoos while at work.

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