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Dress code policies and gender inclusivity in the workplace

In recent years, California has led the way in legislating and advocating for gender-inclusive workplaces. A critical aspect of this inclusivity revolves around dress codes. By establishing a gender-inclusive dress code, employers can foster a respectful and inclusive work environment. 

California law is clear: gender discrimination, including in dress codes, is illegal. The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits employers from imposing dress codes that restrict employees’ appearance based on gender. Senate Bill No. 179, signed into law in 2019, further solidified the rights of individuals to express their gender identity at work.

Embracing gender neutrality

Employers must respect each employee’s right to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity and expression. Instead of traditional gender-specific dress codes, employers should consider adopting a gender-neutral policy. Rather than having separate expectations for different genders, they can create guidelines applicable to all employees. This can range from standards of business casual attire to specifics about safety equipment.

Creating a professional environment

Maintaining professionalism doesn’t mean employers have to compromise on inclusivity. They can set guidelines on attire appropriateness, neatness and modesty without imposing gender-based rules. A focus on the overall appropriateness of attire for the workplace rather than on specific items allows for greater inclusivity without sacrificing professionalism.

Training and implementation

Once an employer establishes a gender-inclusive dress code, they must ensure all managers and employees understand it. Providing training and resources to help employees appreciate and respect their colleagues’ gender identities and expressions is crucial.

A gender-inclusive dress code not only complies with California laws but also reflects a company culture that respects and values diversity. Employees who are discriminated against or harassed because of their gender identity at work may choose to take legal action. 

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