Tag Archives: Dress Code

Don’t Tell Me How To Dress, Or Can You?

This is the million-dollar question…literally (well almost). Violating the state and federal anti-discrimination laws can cost employers thousands of dollars per violation.

“Can’t an employer impose a dress code?”, you ask.  Do you have to allow employees to show-up in any “get up” they’ve imagined for the day, costing you customers, reputation and possibly your business.

Before we answer that question, let’s look at the issue from another perspective.

The law is continually expanding to cover more individuals and the definition of sex has grown to cover gender expression, gender identity, transgender, sexual orientation and other LGBT groups.

Because our definition of sex is no longer limited to “boy” or “girl”, our dress codes will also need to expand. Continue reading Don’t Tell Me How To Dress, Or Can You?

AMENDED LAW: Illinois Human Rights Act Amended to Clarify Religious Accommodations

The Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) was recently amended to include the Religious Garb Law (Public Act 100-0100), which clarifies the religious accommodation requirements under the IHRA.

While the Religious Garb Law does amend the IHRA, it does not appear to impose any new requirements on employers.  Instead, it clarifies an employer’s existing obligations with respect to religious accommodation.  Specifically, the Religious Garb Law reminds employers that it is unlawful for an employer to require an employee as a condition of employment to violate or forego a “sincerely held practice of his or her religion including, but not limited to, the wearing of any attire, clothing, or facial hair in accordance with the requirements of his or her religion” unless after engaging in the interactive process with the employee, the employer can demonstrate that it cannot accommodate the employee without causing the employer an undue hardship.  The Religious Garb Law also clarifies that employers may have dress codes or grooming policies for the purposes of maintaining workplace safety or food sanitation.

It is recommended that all Illinois employers review dress codes and grooming policies to make sure they comply with the amended law.

NEW REGULATIONS – California’s New Transgender Regulations Now In Effect

On July 1, 2017, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s (DFEH) regulations concerning transgender employees went into effect.  The new regulations interpret the California Fair Employment and Housing Act’s (FEHA’s) provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

New Definitions

The new regulations provide new definitions for the following terms:

  • “Gender expression” means a person’s gender-related appearance or behavior, or the perception of such appearance or behavior, whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s sex assigned at birth.
  • “Gender identity” means each person’s internal understanding of their gender, or the perception of a person’s gender identity, which may include male, female, a combination of male and female, neither male nor female, a gender different from the person’s sex assigned at birth, or transgender.
  • “Transitioning” is a process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This process may include, but is not limited to, changes in name and pronoun usage, facility usage, participation in employer-sponsored activities (e.g. sports teams, team-building projects, or volunteering), or undergoing hormone therapy, surgeries, or other medical procedures.

Clarifying Concepts


The new regulation clarify that employers are required to provide “equal access to comparable, safe, and adequate facilities” to all employees without regard to the sex (which is defined to include gender identity and gender expression) of the employee.  Employers are also expressly required to “permit employees to use facilities that correspond to the employee’s gender identity or gender expression, regardless of the employee’s assigned sex at birth.”

The regulations also remind employers that if they have “single-occupancy facilities” under their control, they are required to use gender-neutral signage for those facilities, such as “Restroom,” “Unisex,” “Gender Neutral,” “All Gender Restroom,” etc.

Finally, the regulations clarify that employers are not permitted to require employees provide proof of any medical treatment or procedure or to provide any identity document to use facilities designated for use by a particular gender.

Dress Codes

While employers are still permitted to impose a dress code, the new regulations clarify that it is unlawful for an employer to impose upon an applicant or employee any “dress code” (i.e. physical appearance, grooming or dress standard) which is inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity or gender expression.  In addition, the dress code must serve a legitimate business purpose and cannot discriminate based on an individual’s sex, including gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

The only exception to this prohibition is if the employer can establish business necessity for the particular dress code restriction.

Preferred Name and Identity

The new regulations add a new requirement that employers comply with an employee’s request to be identified by a certain name or gender identity.  The only exception to this requirement is if the employer is under some other legal obligation to identify the employee by his or her legal name or gender marker.

Employers are also prohibited from inquiring into an employee or applicant’s sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression.  The only exception is if the employer can establish a business necessity for such an inquiry.

Recommendations for Employers

It is recommended that all California employers review the new regulations and verify their employment practices comply with the new regulations.  Specifically, employers should consider the following:

  • Revising existing anti-discrimination policies to include express protections relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression;
  • For employers with single-user restrooms, verify that the restroom is labelled with the appropriate signage (i.e. the unisex signage);
  • Verify that any dress code policy avoids gender stereotypes and is enforced consistently; and
  • Most importantly, provide training to your managers and supervisors about the new regulations.

No Tattoos, No Piercings, No Beards…No Employees?

The workplace has changed since the days when men wore suits and ties to work, cleanly shaved with every hair in place and women wore dresses, nylons, and pumps (think Mad Men).
You may have to build a time machine if you want to keep up those dress standards, today. The new work scene includes flannel shirts, hoodies, skinny jeans, and tennis shoes. By the way, these are your best dressed employees. I believe they’re called “Hipsters”. Beards and mustaches have never been so en vogue.
Remember Elvis, the Beatles, Madonna? What you wouldn’t give for bushy hair and fingerless lace gloves. Yes. Today’s employer has to deal with face tattoos, earlobe discs, and eyebrow piercings. And tomorrow’s employer will have to deal with something even more outlandish.
The question comes up every time fads and fashions change, “Can I put that in my Dress Code Policy”?

Remember, make your Professional Appearance Policy work for you, not against you.
While employers can dictate dress at work, accommodations may need to be made for religious beliefs, disabilities, and individuals in other protected classes. If an employee is allowed to wear a beard for religious accommodation and another employee can wear open-toed shoes due to their disability, others may want to follow suit. The policy then becomes more of a guideline than a hard lined policy.

Have you noticed it seems to be getting tougher to find an employee under the age of thirty without visible tattoos. These markings were once brandished by prisoners, criminals and rock stars. Now everyone from your babysitter to the IT programmer at work have visible tattoos. Are you wading through the talent pool searching for someone who doesn’t violate your dress policy, or finding the best asset for your organization? Your refusal to give in to these trends could impact your business and hinder your ability to compete.
So do you scrap the dress code policy? You can still create expectations and boundaries with a written policy.

Best Practice: Don’t make your policy so specific that it’s outdated before the ink dries. Review your policy, does it prohibit miniskirts, bell bottoms, and fringe? Even if you update your policy often, you will likely fail to add the latest trend that walks in your door unexpectedly on Monday (Like purple hair). Instead address hygiene, unkempt, disheveled, dirty, and torn clothing. Use expectations standards like appropriate, neat, clean, professional, and business casual. Use business purpose for your dress policy requirements. Finally, if your employees have very little public contact, what’s the harm in having a relaxed dress code? Some companies actually offer it as a company benefit.