Dress Code and Grooming Requirements & Employees' Legal Rights
In general, an employer can impose a dress code to regulate the appearance of employees, as long as it is not discriminatory. For example, an employer cannot impose dress codes on only one person, one race, or one gender. On the other hand, an employer can impose different dress codes and grooming requirements for each gender, such as makeup for women and short hair for men.
Issues Related to Uniforms
Federal law allows an employer to deduct the cost of work uniforms from an employee’s paycheck. However, if doing so then results in the employee making less than the minimum wage, the employer must foot the bill.
An employer has the right to require employees to wear a uniform. They can also require employees to fit into a certain weight range and size of uniform, as long as this does not result in gender discrimination. If the job involves sex appeal, the employer may require employees to wear a uniform that emphasizes this aspect of the job. Requiring revealing or provocative outfits is not allowed if it is not related to a legitimate business purpose. Inappropriately imposing this requirement may give rise to a sexual harassment claim.
Your employer can deduct the cost of your uniform from your paycheck, as long as this does not cause your wages to fall below the minimum wage required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An employer cannot require you to wear clothing that it sells or otherwise make a profit from.
Issues Related to Grooming
Your employer has a right to require you to come to work in a clean and presentable condition. This may involve requiring you to shave a beard, as long as this does not involve race or disability discrimination. (Some African-Americans and people with certain skin conditions suffer adverse effects from shaving.) Your employer also can require you to cover tattoos or piercings unless you have a religious reason for displaying them.
Wearing Religious Clothing at Work
You generally have the right to wear clothing that is required by your religion at work unless it creates an undue hardship for your employer. Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religious beliefs. Your employer may be able to prevent you from wearing a certain type of clothing without engaging in religious discrimination if it poses a safety hazard at work. For example, if an employee’s religious clothing might get caught in the machinery at a factory, this might pose a sufficient risk to prevent them from wearing the clothing.
Wearing Union Clothing at Work
An employer cannot specifically prevent employees from wearing all union-related clothing. However, a rule against wearing a certain type of clothing, such as a t-shirt, can legitimately prevent employees from wearing union-related clothing of that type. You have a right to wear union buttons and pins at work unless this creates a safety risk or the employer’s dress code involves wearing uniforms without buttons and pins of any type.
Dress for Success
In general, employers can dictate a standard of dress or a dress code for their employees. However, these codes cannot discriminate against a group of employees or prospective employees based on such things as religion, or place heavier burdens on one gender over another.