Can an Employer Require Different Dress Codes for Men and Women? | Mann & Elias

A Guide to Sexist Dress Codes

While the idea of following a strict dress code may not give some people pause, our clothing plays a strong role in how we present ourselves to others. Our wardrobes reflect our personalities, so being restricted in what you can wear can affect your comfort level at a job. Additionally, if wardrobe expectations are different for male and female employees, you may have a case of workplace discrimination on your hands.

Dress codes are put in place to maintain the overall brand of a company. Your business may want to maintain a certain image with customers and clients, and they may also want employees to be easily identifiable compared to members of the public.

Los Angeles gender discrimination lawyers agree that it’s not unreasonable for a workplace to express a preference for the clothes employees wear, but when the dress code imposes a greater burden on women than men, then it enters into problematic territory. According to the Human Resources Campaign, gender-specific dress codes are not discriminatory, but enacting a stricter dress code towards one gender is. If women are required to manage their appearance more than their male counterparts, your workplace may be in need of a gender discrimination lawyer for the workplace.

Historically, federal courts have voted to uphold workplace dress codes that require men and women to present themselves in accordance with their gender stereotypes. Allowing female employees to wear makeup and jewelry while not allowing male employees to do the same is actually allowed in most places.

Examples of Dress Codes

Traditional business attire and business casual dress codes are the two most popular in offices. A short summary of the two dress codes can be found below: 

  • Business Casual - Business casual workwear can be described as professional clothing that takes advantage of more casual garments. Business casual dress codes don’t allow jeans or sneakers, but they do allow khakis and non-collared shirts like sweaters and blouses. In business casual dress codes, ties and blazers are optional. 
  • Traditional Business - Traditional business attire is much more conservative. Bright colors are only allowed on accessories, as tops and pants should be neutral-tones, like black, navy, gray, and brown. Open-toed shoes are not allowed, and ties should be worn with collared shirts. All shirts should be tucked into pants. 

As for more casual workplaces like restaurants, you may want to contact a Los Angeles workplace lawyer if female employees’ required wardrobes open them up for sexual harassment. For example, if male employees can wear pants, but women are required to wear short skirts or shorts, that’s how you know when to contact a lawyer for gender discrimination.

In 2020, California passed the CROWN Act, which outlaws discrimination based on hairstyle. Black employees have historically been discriminated against for sporting natural hairstyles, like braids, dreadlocks, and twists. However, they are now protected under the CROWN Act, and the doctrine encourages employers to educate themselves on hair identity and review their required grooming procedures for employees. 

The state of California requires that women be allowed to wear pants, regardless of the dress code. While a company may have guidelines for both pants and skirts, they cannot force female employees to wear skirts or dresses instead of pants. 

Cases for Gender Discrimination

You should contact a Los Angeles workplace lawyer if the dress code favors one gender. If female employees are required to wear a showy or sexy costume, while men can wear whatever they want, this is an example of the heavier burden being placed on women. Additionally, if women are required to wear a specific brand of clothing, you and your sex discrimination attorney can argue that women have a stronger financial burden because they have to buy specific items. 

Impact on Transgender Employees

Dress codes can disproportionately affect those who don’t fall on either side of the gender spectrum, as well. A gender-specific dress code may make transgender and non-binary employees feel uncomfortable, and they should be supported when they go to HR with their concerns. If a transgender employee is not being treated fairly, they may also have a case for a gender discrimination lawyer for the workplace.

Starting Your Case

If you’d like to move forward with legal action regarding your company’s stance on dress codes, then you should seek out a gender discrimination attorney. Mann & Elias can provide you with a sex discrimination attorney Los Angeles employees trust to fight for a fair dress code.

Before arriving to your consultation, ask your employer to provide a copy of your business’s dress code in written form. Make copies of it and present it to your lawyer. Together, you can comb through it to build a case for why it burdens women more than men.

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