Clothing Exceptions: Legal Considerations For Employers

Posted on: 20 September 2016

Although the authority to set dress codes for your employees belongs to you, you should understand the rules of what can and cannot be be considered discriminatory in the eyes of the law. You are free to institute your own guidelines in some instances. For example, maybe you have instituted a rule to allow casual Friday or open toed shoes for women. The following are some things all employers should know about clothing exceptions when it comes to the law.

Consider your Businesses Public Image

You will want to consider the public image of your business before you allow certain exceptions. It is important that your business appears professional, and improperly dressed employees can hinder a good image. You are welcome to make exceptions when you like, but be certain to have stipulations within those

Consider Safety Concerns

When it comes to allowing exceptions of dress code in the workplace, be certain that your employees aren't dressed in a way that will hurt them when they are performing their primary job functions. This includes piercings or loose clothing when performing certain tasks that could be caught in machinery.

Consider Your Legal Obligations When Setting a Dress Code

Dress codes often seem like a second thought when compared to other important decisions that have to be made in an organization. However, there are many aspects of the dress code that can lead to discrimination against a sector of employees. The following considerations should be carefully examined:

  • Religion- some employees will contend that their religious beliefs require certain apparel or not wearing certain apparel. These employees will need to request reasonable accommodation and demonstrate justification for their requirements.
  • Gender- You are typically allowed to require different dress code standards for men and women. You must, however, have a dress code that applies to all employees regardless of gender. If you have a dress code that says men cannot have piercings but women can, that can be considered discriminatory. 
  • Sexual Discrimination- When you are communicating your dress code, you must be careful that you don't condone a hostile working environment. If there is a dress code violation made by a female employee, it is inappropriate to circulate that information in demoralizing or demeaning way among the management staff or others within the company. This could lead to a sexual discrimination lawsuit.

Knowing these tips can help you determine what type of dress code to enforce and when to make exceptions for your employees. For more information, visit or a similar website.