The law allows employers to enforce reasonable grooming and appearance requirements. These requirements must not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or religion. However, employers may institute different requirements for male and female employees. These requirements may constitute sex or gender discrimination if the requirements impacts one sex or gender group adversely, restrict employment opportunities for one group, and are demeaning to the group it applies to. Furthermore, these requirements must be related to the job. For example, a professional image may be considered important in some positions.
Some positions where makeup requirements may be allowed include:
- Beverage employees, such as bartenders or cocktail waitresses
- Restaurant waitresses
- Flight attendants
- Newscasters and reporters
- Clothing retail associates
Examples of Impermissible Differences
Employers are not allowed to institute the following:
- Require only one sex to wear a uniform;
- Have different weight requirements for men and women, with one being more burdensome to meet than the other; and
- Have grooming or appearance requirements that are entirely unrelated to the employment.
Examples of Permissible Differences
Courts have allowed different requirements in grooming and appearance to be instituted. These include:
- A requirement that men wear ties and women wear skirts or dresses
- Some states, like California, have enacted laws that require employers to provide women the option to wear pants in the workplace
- A requirement that men not wear jewelry, so long as this requirement was mean to protect the company's business image
- Differing requirements as to hair length and facial hair for men and women
- Requiring female bartenders to wear makeup and forbidding male bartenders from wearing makeup
- Such was the case in Nevada
Do I Need An Attorney If My Employer Instituted An Appearance/Grooming Requirement That Discriminates Based on Gender or Sex?
If you believe that the appearance or grooming requirements at your workplace exceed their proper scope or are discriminatory, you may want to consult an experienced employment lawyer. An experienced employment law attorney will be able to advise you of your rights as an employee and determine whether you have a valid case of sex or gender discrimination.