Are Workplace Dress Codes Legal?
Whether you have to wear a full suit and tie to work or simply have to keep your shoes on, workplace dress codes are common in Washington and throughout the rest of the country. Some Washington companies do it for the sake of professional uniformity, some do it for safety reasons, and some do it just because they want to. Whatever the reason behind imposing a dress code, Washington employees can face suspensions, warnings or even be fired for violating a workplace dress code. And here’s the legal reality of Washington workplace dress codes: as long as the demands of the company you work for do not violate other rights, what the boss says likely goes. That may be unfair and it may not be how you want to look at work, but it is something that you were likely alerted to before or just after you accepted employment with the company.
But just because work says you have to dress a certain way does not mean that your company can force you to dress contrary to your beliefs of gender. Here are some examples of areas where an employer has to allow for some workplace dressing discretion:
· Religion: Let’s face it, religious attire and workplace dress code requirements do not always go together. There are countless news stories in which an employee is told that he or she cannot wear an article that is essential to their religious practice. Unless there is a very valid business necessity, employers must allow for religious attire at work. If this is an issue for you, the best way to handle it is to address it in the beginning and alert your employer. It may be as simple as that. If you are fired or otherwise penalized for wearing your religious attire to work, you should get in touch with a local religious discrimination discrimination attorney.
· Gender: Does your company dress code impose different grooming and clothing requirements on one gender and not the other? If that is the case then there may be a potential Title VII case for the differential treatment based on gender.
You may not feel like there is room to be yourself and be an employee in some workplace dress code situations. But if the code is limiting certain things like your ability to express your religion or placing different requirements on you because of your gender, then there is legal room for you to be yourself.
Most workplace dress codes should be in writing and something that is fairly easy to follow. When it comes to dress codes that are conflicting with religion or otherwise, your first recourse should be to speak with your employer about your needs and see if a compromise can be worked out internally. If not, getting in touch with an employment law attorney can help inform you of your rights and hopefully resolve the workplace issue for you.