Are workplace dress codes legal?

It’s very normal for employees to feel less than enthralled about a workplace dress code. They may not enjoy being told what to wear or may even resent being given a specific uniform.

But is a dress code actually legal? Do employers have a right to tell you what to wear, or are they overstepping their bounds when they instruct you on something so personal?

Dress codes can’t discriminate

Dress codes are legal, as you likely suspect since they’re so common. The stipulation is that they have to be applied equally to everyone and they can not discriminate.

For instance, if your employer has a strict dress code for female employees and does not have a set of rules for male employees — or if the employer clearly lets the male employees break the dress code — then this could be evidence of gender-based discrimination.

There are also certain exceptions that have to be made. For example, if someone’s religion requires a specific type of dress or means they cannot follow part of the code, they should get a religious exemption. This prevents employers from creating dress codes that specifically target members of any one religion.

In some cases, discrimination is unintentional. This should be brought to the employer’s attention so it can be fixed, as even unintentional discrimination may break labor laws. If the employer refuses to fix the issue, then it may be time for legal action.

Protecting your rights

Dress codes are merely one example of potential discrimination issues within the workplace. It’s important for all employees to know what rights they have and what steps to take if those rights are infringed upon.