When you think about discrimination in the workplace, you probably think about denial of a promotion, a good assignment or a better schedule based on your race, religion, gender or some other protected factor. However, there are hidden sources of discrimination that you may have missed.
Some jobs require certain clothing in order to keep you safe. For instance, wearing a reflective vest and steel-toed boots at a construction site only makes sense. However, some dress code requirements discriminate against certain people, whether your employer knows it or not.
Does the dress code address grooming?
One source of grooming discrimination that California recently addressed is hairstyles, especially where they pertain to women of color. If you are a black woman, then you know how expensive, time-consuming and sometimes irritating it can be to maintain a hairstyle that goes against your natural hair.
Another source of this type of discrimination pertains to discriminating against you based on your religion’s requirements. Perhaps your religion requires you to wear facial hair. Some religions require women to cover their hair. The law may prohibit setting certain grooming requirements that would force you to violate your religious beliefs.
Does the dress code single out a certain gender or discriminate based on gender identity?
Dress codes should remain neutral when it comes to gender. Many states are beginning to recognize that some of these policies discriminate against someone whose gender identity does not conform to male or female. Requiring women to wear skirts or dresses may violate your rights.
Moreover, if your religious beliefs require you to wear certain clothing and/or to cover your hair, you employer should not prohibit it. Sometimes, it’s not what your employer requires but what it forbids you to wear that constitutes discrimination.
Does the dress code discriminate against your disability?
Your employer’s dress code should not require you to wear clothing that hinders your movement due to a temporary or permanent disability. For example, if you broke your leg, you may want to wear looser clothing, such as a skirt. If you use an insulin pump, pants might be the better choice of attire.
What can you do?
Of course, you want to keep your attire consistent with the environment. You probably wouldn’t consider wearing shorts and a t-shirt in an office setting. As mentioned before, your employer may require you to wear certain clothing for safety reasons and for the atmosphere. However, certain dress code polices may amount to nothing more than a discriminatory attitude. You have the right to stand up for your rights and call out your employer regarding a dress code that discriminates against you.