Employers are permitted, and often encouraged, to establish a uniform dress code. There can be many reasons why an employer would want to establish a dress code. An employer might be concerned about workplace safety requiring safety gear, like goggles or gloves, clothing to prevent minor injuries, such as work boots or full length pants. An employer may have concerns about excluding controversial clothing, such as shirts with offensive language/logos or revealing clothing. Employers may also want to demonstrate uniformity or demonstrate their products, such as in apparel stores.
Similarly, employers often want to present a certain image of the company to customers, clients and business partners. An employer may also want to encourage a professional environment by requiring a certain level of business attire. Employers can create problems under employment laws when they overreach with dress code policies.
Employer dress codes in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
Employers have considerable latitude in setting dress code policy under the law. The most significant restriction is that the company cannot use the dress code policy to discriminate on any legally protected status. The company may have a reason to exclude specific types of clothing or articles of clothing that would discriminate against certain groups. This may require modifying the rule if reasonably possible. Employers typically are permitted to establish reasonably different dress codes for men and women. The dress code may require men to wear slacks but permit women to wear skirts with a minimum length.
Dress code-based employment discrimination in Texas
The most common sources of controversy in dress code involves the differences between restrictions on men versus women, instances where a neutral dress code has a discriminatory effect, and when employees enter the workplace with inappropriate attire. The difference between men and women in the dress code is less of an issue than it used to be, but it can give rise to new situations, such as which set of rules apply to a transgender employee. A neutral dress code can have a discriminatory effect commonly in the case of religious attire. The employer may have a legitimate, safety-based restriction on clothing that conflicts with an employee’s religious attire. Because the law does not permit an employer to discriminate based upon religion, the employer may have to modify the rule for that employee in some cases, or may have to defend the dress code on an overriding safety concern.
Employers can also create problems with the dress code when employees come to work in inappropriate attire. Often, this is more likely to be an issue with women employees rather than men. Women may come to work in too revealing or too casual of clothing. It can be uncomfortable and risky to confront such employees and require them to modify their clothing or leave work. That confrontation can be harassing or discriminatory. At a minimum it could create an uncomfortable relationship between management and employee. In these cases a very minor situation can become a complex legal crisis, especially when the dress code is enforced intermittently or in a discriminatory fashion.
Consult an employment attorney in Dallas and Fort Worth
The best way to defend a dress code is to establish a uniform, business needs-based policy and enforce it uniformly. Such an employer may still find itself in a legal conundrum enforcing the policy. It is a good idea to consult an employment attorney when a problem arises. In many cases an early resolution is possible by working with the employer to help them understand the issues from your side. Hiring an employment lawyer may encourage the employer to hire its own employment lawyers who can offer counsel and help set the employer straight. However, if your employer took unlawful action and it cannot be resolved at an earlier stage then your employment attorney can pursue your claim.