The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment on the basis of their race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, martial status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or veteran or military status.
Sept. 26, 2018
What Counts as Dress Code Gender Discrimination for Women?
Over the years, office dress codes have become more casual and the workforce has grown to encompass an even amount of both men and women. However, some businesses may still enforce different dress code standards for women than men.
If you believe your employer is enforcing a dress code that is discriminatory towards women, read on to learn about whether you may be able to take action.
Does the law allow for male/female dress code discrepancies?
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act made it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants due to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. However, companies can still enforce policies that require employees to wear attire deemed suitable for the business’ image, even if what is suitable for men is different than what is suitable for women.
That means a company’s brand image could require that female employees wear makeup, tights and a skirt, while men wear neck-ties, blazers and button-up shirts.
However, lawsuits have been made against employers that impose heavier requirements on one gender than the other or require that employees dress in sexually provocative ways.
What are the exceptions to Title VII?
But what about companies like, Hooter’s, who enforce a dress code that sexualizes employees in order to attract clients?
Legally, businesses may design their dress code to their preference as long as it adheres to one of the following conditions:
Allows for reasonable accommodation
Involves a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the regular operation of the business
In the case of Hooters, hiring only women as baristas and imposing a skimpy dress code is a bona fide occupational qualification necessary for the restaurant’s operation of business.
Reasonable accommodations, on the other hand, may include an employer allowing an employee to wear flats instead of high heels if the shoes are painful to wear.
Should I take action against my employer?
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you or refused to provide reasonable dress code accommodations, contact an attorney to discuss the situation. An employment law attorney can assess your employer’s policy, determine whether it violates the law and explain your legal options.
How many times have you wondered if you’re getting paid your fair share? Do you think you’re underpaid because of your race, sex, gender, disability, or even your prior salary history?
If you cannot work because you’re injured/sick or you need to care for a qualifying family member, eligible employees (those who worked more than 1,250 hours in the year prior for an employer with 5 or more employees) are eligible for up to 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) and/or California Family Rights Act protected Leave (CFRA).