You love your “look”. You like your clothes and your hair. Many people love their tattoos and their piercings. The entirety of your look is a form of personal expression and part of an image that you have consciously cultivated for yourself. Unfortunately, employers frequently have “grooming policies” that really shut down this form of expression. We’re supposed to live in a free Country—can employers really dictate how we look? Are these policies lawful?
Unfortunately, in most cases, explicit grooming policies are enforceable and employers are given a great deal of latitude. There is a general presumption that businesses have an interest in the culture of their workplace, of the appearance of professionalism, and their general public image. There is, however, one way grooming policies can cross the line: when the policy is discrimination.
Employers Cannot Discriminate
Do your employer’s policies regarding dress code, appearance, and grooming standards discriminate? State and federal laws provide laws that prohibit employers from engaging in discriminatory practices and conduct. These laws create protected classes based on factors like race, sex, age, religion, color, country of origin, and disability. Problematic dress, appearance, and grooming policies may feature unlawful:
- Race discrimination. A grooming policy that is explicitly targeted toward a specific race is rare. However, it is possible that a policy has a disparate impact on one race more than another. It is important how these policies are applied, and that they are applied consistently amongst employees.
- Sex discrimination. Appearance and grooming policies that are unfairly applied or create a burden on one gender over another can be problematic. In addition, policies that require employees to dress provocatively are inviting trouble.
- Religious discrimination. An employer cannot hold an employee to appearance and grooming standards if they do not adhere to them due to religious practice or belief. This includes wearing religious garb or refusing to cut your hair or shave for religious reasons. Employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.
- Disability discrimination. If a grooming or appearance policy places a hardship on an employee with a disability, or is not physically possible to comply with, then the employer must make reasonable accommodations for that employee.
A Lawyer Can Help You
Employer discrimination can take many forms, but you can usually tell when it is happening. If you feel you’re your employer has discriminatory policies, is applying its policies in a discriminatory manner, or is making decisions based on your protected class, contact Moss Bollinger law firm. Discrimination is unlawful and it is sickening. You need an advocate who knows that law and will help you stand up for your rights. We work on a contingency basis, which means we do not get paid unless you do. Call us today at (866) 535-2994 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online.