As a business owner, you want to use a dress code at your company. You feel that it will help create the atmosphere that you’re seeking to make, and it will give your business the professional aesthetic that is so important in your industry.
However, when you inform your employees about the upcoming dress code, some of them complain about not wanting to follow it. They even say that it is discriminatory and that you can’t force them to dress a certain way.
Is this true? Or are you allowed to impose a dress code on your workforce?
It must impact all people equally
First and foremost, you certainly are allowed to use a dress code. Many employers do, just like schools, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It is not illegal to tell your employees to wear a certain type of attire or even to give them a specific uniform to wear.
However, to make sure that isn’t discriminatory, you have to check to see if it impacts everyone equally. If one group of people is going to be impacted to a greater extent than others, there’s a chance that you could be discriminating against that group. This may even be unintentional, but it still has to be addressed.
For example, you cannot create a dress code for workers of one gender without creating a dress code for workers of the other gender. Women cannot be told to wear professional attire while men are allowed to wear anything they want, as that would be gender discrimination.
You also have to consider workers’ ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds and cultural considerations. There have been cases where employers have been accused of creating a dress code specifically to ban religious attire or cultural attire. Using a dress code for this reason can still be discriminatory, even if all workers are told that they have to follow the same rules. Those rules may not impact all groups the same way.
Are you facing allegations?
If you’ve tried to institute a dress code and now you’re facing allegations of discrimination on any grounds, it’s important for you to know what legal steps you can take to protect yourself and your business.