Ask a California employment lawyer:
Are dress codes unfair or illegal?
You’re an adult. You pay your own bills. You make your own decisions. Yet, your boss tells you that you have to dress a certain way in order to keep your job. Is this legal? It depends. While employers can generally require their employees to comply with a dress code, their request must be reasonable and it must apply to all employees -- no special treatment!
For instance, I had a client who was told she couldn’t wear high heels to work. On its face, this seems reasonable since she was working in a health care environment. However, on further examination, we discovered that the boss told another co-worker (to whom he was attracted to) that she could wear high heels. That was unfair! As a result, my client filed claims against her employer for sexual harassment and discrimination because of its unequal dress code policy.
Your employer can’t use the dress code to bully you regarding your religious practices.
Employers have frequently tried to get away with violating a person’s religious practices under the guise of a dress code violation. For instance, in the case of EEOC v. UPS, UPS told its employee to shave his beard. Having a beard was part of his Rastafarian religion. The employee won because UPS had no right to prohibit the employee from exercising his religious grooming habits.
In a recent case, a Muslim worker at a cafe in Disneyland sued the Disney corporation because of its refusal to allow her to wear her hijab during her shifts. Disney proclaimed her religious practice “not part of the Disney image.”
Employers have frequently tried to get away with violating a person’s religious practices under the guise of a dress code violation.
Of course, it would be much different if the worker was auditioning to play the role of Snow White. Snow White had a certain costume. That would be unreasonable. But, a worker in a restaurant? It's hard to see how the “Disney image” trumps this woman’s right to practice her religion.
Don’t let your boss get away with bullying you because of your religious practices. You have rights!
What apparel is my employer permitted to ban?
Your boss can enact reasonable dress code apolicies that are legitimately based on their business needs. Your boss can also prohibit certain apparel for men (such as earrings) while not prohibiting women from wearing the same apparel, as long as their reasons are based on legitimate business needs.
Also, your employer can make you wear work uniforms as long as they are not discriminatory. But, they can’t deduct the cost of these uniforms from your paycheck!
What apparel is illegal for my employer to ban me from wearing?
Your boss can’t discriminate against employees , encourage a hostile work environment or promote sexually harassing behaviors, or other forms of retaliation or harassment in the workplace. For example, your boss can’t require females to wear sexually suggestive clothing without showing legitimate reasons (such as they work for a bikini bar). Also, if you are a transgendered individual, your boss must allow you to follow the same dress code as people who are of the gender in which they feel they belong.
Fight for justice! Know your rights!
If your boss refuses to allow you to practice your religion through your dress and grooming habits, don’t let them get away with it. You have a right to a workplace free of discrimination and harassment!
Please make an appointment for a free consultation in our Newport Beach office. You can contact us by email or phone. We want to help.