If your company has a dress code that you believe discriminates against you, what options do you have?
An article in the Houston Chronicle advises that it is within a company’s prerogatives to impose a dress code as long as it meets the following requirements:
- It must have a valid business reason as its basis.
- It must not violate the prohibitions of Title VII.
- It must apply uniformly across the workforce.
Valid business reason
No one-size-fits-all definition exists with regard to what constitutes a valid business reason. Instead, validity depends on the type of business in which a company engages and the restrictions its dress code imposes on employees. For example, if you work for a law office or other professional organization, your employer has a valid business reason for requiring you to wear appropriate business clothing rather than jeans, tee-shirts, sweat pants or other casual clothing.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids your employer to discriminate against you if you are a member of a protected class, such as one of the following:
- Ethnicity or national origin
- Gender or gender identification
For example, your employer cannot force you to shave your beard or to forego a head covering if these practices run counter to your religious beliefs.
Uniform application does not necessarily mean that a dress code provision must apply equally to each and every employee. Rather, it must apply uniformly to all employees who perform a certain function within the company.
Your wisest course of action if you believe your company’s dress code discriminates against you consists of going to the proper person and requesting an accommodation, i.e., an exception. Companies must take these requests seriously and do everything possible to accommodate valid requests.