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Can my employer make me wear a uniform?

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2023 | Employment Law

Some people love uniforms, while others hate them. What can you do if you are unhappy with your employer’s uniform requirements?

Firstly, it’s important to realize that the law generally allows employers to insist you wear a certain uniform or groom yourself in a certain way. However, that does not give them free rein to do as they please. They are not allowed to discriminate against you in the process.

Much of employment law revolves around something known as protected characteristics

Immutable characteristics, such as your religion, nationality, skin color, gender or whether you have a disability are generally protected under federal and state law. Employers can implement uniform policies, but they cannot discriminate against people on the basis of any protected characteristics in the process. For example, they can’t tell all white employees to wear blue shirts and all Black employees to wear yellow ones. They can’t tell all Ukrainians to tie their hair up but allow Americans to wear it down.

Employers must also accommodate a worker’s religious or cultural beliefs and traditions. For example, they should accept that wearing a head covering may be important to a Muslim woman. Or that an Afro is a natural hairstyle for someone of African descent. There are only very limited circumstances under which such dress-related concerns can be regulated lawfully by employers.

Does everyone need an identical uniform?

An employer is allowed to insist on a different uniform for men than women. They are allowed to insist on one uniform for people in marketing and another for those they employ in reception. However, there needs to be a certain level of consistency between people in similar positions. It’s not okay to expect Britney to wear smart dresses and heels while working a reception desk while allowing Justin to work the reception desk in jeans, a T-shirt and a battered pair of Converse.

Some employers get it wrong. If you believe yours discriminates against you through their dress code, you may benefit from seeking legal guidance to learn more about your legal options.