There are no federal laws that specifically state what dress code is permissible or impermissible at work. However, federal laws prohibiting gender or religious discrimination may provide protection for an employee who wants to dress a certain way at work. Likewise, an employer may be able to enforce a dress code at work and still be in compliance with these anti-discrimination laws.
Generally, an employee can wear religious clothing in the workplace. An employer who prohibits her employees from wearing religious clothing may be sued for religious discrimination. However, an employer may enforce a dress code that prohibits certain religious clothing if wearing such clothing could lead to a potentially serious problem, such as a safety hazard.
Any employment dress code that puts different standards on men and woman may be illegal as sex discrimination. The dress code must not reinforce stereotypes about gender, such as the view that women are sex objects.
Any employment dress code that strays from acceptable social customs or applies radically different standard for men and women will likely be illegal. A dress code which is mostly the same for both genders, but only differs in a few ways will not face as much opposition.
Some individual states, like California, have enacted special dress code laws that compel employers to allow women to wear pants in the workplace.
The National Labor Relations Act allows employees to wear clothing or accessories in support of a union, as long as the dress does not pose safety concerns or conflict with other work rules.
Displays of tattoos and piercing as forms of self-expression are generally unprotected by both federal and state law in the workplace. If an employer objects to an employee’s tattoo or body piercing, it may be able to lawfully fire that employee.
An employment lawyer may be able to help you resolve the questions or concerns you may have regarding your company’s dress code or appearance policy. A lawyer can also help distinguish the differences between a company policy that is based on business needs and uniformly applied and one that constitutes unjust discrimination.