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When does a dress code become workplace discrimination?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2024 | Employment Law |

Almost every workplace has some sort of dress code. Construction workers must wear hard hats and steel-toed boots, while a bank teller may be required to have a more professional appearance.

A dress code helps reinforce a company’s brand identity and culture. It also sets expectations for employees, helping them understand what is considered appropriate attire. But when does a dress code cross the line and become a form of workplace discrimination?

Piercings, tattoos and hair

32% of Americans have tattoos, with 22% having more than one. Approximately 17% have at least one facial piercing. Still, these are considered taboo in some workplaces. And, if your employer has a dress code policy that requires you to remove your piercings and cover your tattoos, it is not considered discrimination.

Your hair may be a different matter

California has often led the way with groundbreaking legislation that protects the rights of workers no matter what race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or gender they are. The California Crown Act is no exception. The Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act was signed into law on July 3, 2019, with the primary purpose of protecting individuals from discrimination based on their natural hair and hairstyles associated with race, such as afros, braids, twists and locks. This ensures that employers are prohibited from enforcing grooming policies that require employees to change their natural hair or hairstyles to conform to company standards.

The CROWN Act provides vital protections and promotes self-expression and cultural pride. Employees now have the right to wear their natural hair and hairstyles without fear of discrimination or retaliation. Cultural diversity should be celebrated in all aspects of society, including the workplace.

If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your hair, or your employer has unfairly enforced their dress code requiring you to remove piercings or cover tattoos while allowing others to keep them, you can discuss your situation with someone who can review your case and help you file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.