How a “fair” dress code could still discriminate

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

One thing to remember about a dress code is that it needs to be fair. It needs to apply to all workers at your business, and it should impact them all evenly.

For example, a business owner may consider giving female employees a dress code, but they then tell male employees that they can wear jeans and T-shirts – they don’t have any regulations. This would clearly be discriminatory on the basis of sex and gender. That doesn’t mean a dress code can’t be used, but it would need to apply to both male and female employees.

How does the dress code impact different groups?

To get around these issues, many business owners simply write a dress code that applies to everyone, and they assume that this insulates them from any liability. But there are still ways in which this type of dress code could be discriminatory, based on how it impacts different groups of workers.

For example, perhaps 10% of your employees come from the same ethnic background. They have a traditional style of dress that they want to wear on the job. 

If you make a dress code prohibiting that type of attire specifically, it discriminates against these employees. You could argue that none of your employees are allowed to wear that specific ethnic attire, meaning that your dress code does apply equally to all of your workers. But it could still be seen as discrimination because 90% of your employees would be unaffected by the rule. Only those with the same ethnic background would have to change the way that they dress.

As you can see, these situations often grow rather complex. If you’re involved in a dispute, you need to know about the legal steps you can take.

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