Dress Codes and Uniforms

We live in a free country. Right? We value our individuality and the rights to express ourselves. This includes choosing how we dress, whether we have beards, and how we wear our hair. Unfortunately, this freedom does not always extend into the workplace, where we are often made to adhere to dress codes or to wear uniforms. A logical question, then, is whether employers act lawfully when they do this?

The simple answer to this question is yes. But it is important, as an employee in California, to have a better understanding of how the law operates when it comes to dress codes.

Employees May Implement Dress Code

The California Government Code allows employers to require employees “to adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards.” This may include business casual, or business formal, or even the Silicon Valley look of skinny jeans and a hoodie.

An employer’s ability to implement and enforce a dress code, however, is limited by numerous state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination against protected classes. Examples include:

  • Sex. An employer cannot place a greater burden on one gender over the other when it comes to dress. For example, an employer may not require a woman to wear a dress as opposed to pants.
  • Gender Identity. An employer cannot discriminate against a person based on their gender identity and is legally required to allow the employee to dress in accordance with how they identify.

Employers May Require Uniforms

Employees have the right to mandate employees wear uniforms. The California Labor Code specifies that an employer is not prohibited “from prescribing the weight, color, quality, texture, style, form and make of uniforms required to be worn by his employees”. Further, the Industrial Welfare Commission has elaborated that uniforms include “apparel and accessories of distinctive design or color.”

If these uniforms are mandatory for employees, then the employer is mandated under the law to provide these uniforms and maintain them. An employer cannot make an employee pay for the uniform, but can make them pay a refundable security deposit or reach an agreement to deduct the cost of the uniform if the employee fails to return it when their employment ends. Further, maintenance may cover a nominal stipend for the employee to get the uniform dry-cleaned.

Three Cafe Workers in Uniform

You Need a Lawyer

If you believe that your employee’s dress code is discriminatory, contact us. At Moss Bollinger, we know state and federal labor laws inside and out and can help you determine whether you have a claim. For years, we have prided ourselves in providing tough, no-nonsense advocacy for the rights of our clients. We work on a contingency basis, so you pay nothing up front. Call Moss Bollinger today at (866) 535-2994 for a free consultation or contact us online.

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