Employers are allowed to institute reasonable grooming and appearance requirements, so long as they don't discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or religion and are related to the requirements of the job. In other words, a grooming or appearance requirement is permissible if it doesn't discriminate between men and women and serves some business purpose. 

Are Different Requirements for Men and Women Permissible?

A policy that has different grooming and appearance requirements for men and women is not automatically discriminatory. Different grooming and dress requirements are permissible so long as they impose equal burdens on males and females and only if they do not limit the employment opportunities of one sex and not the other. 

Examples of Permissible Differences

Courts have laid out many examples of differences in grooming and appearance requirements that are permissible. These include:

  • a requirement that men wear ties and women wear skirts or dresses
  • 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 males and females

These differences are only allowed when they don't restrict employment opportunities for one sex and not the other and when they serve some business purpose.

Examples of Impermissible Differences

Many practices are not allowed when it comes to grooming and appearance requirements. For example, employers cannot:

  • require only one sex to wear a uniform
  • have different weigh requirements for men and women, with one being more burdensome to meet than the other
  • have grooming or appearance requirements that are entirely unrelated to the employment and serve no business purpose

A Brief Summary

To review, employers are allowed to have different grooming and appearance standards for men and women, so long as the requirements are equally burdensome, do not restrict employment opportunities, and are not demeaning to the group it applies to. Also, the requirements must be related to the job in some way. 

Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?

If you are planning on implementing or changing a grooming and/or appearance requirement, an experienced employment lawyer can advise you on what's allowed and what isn't. Also, if you are an employer accused of sex discrimination, a lawyer can represent you.