Can my boss legally terminate me because I refuse to shave my beard?

My boss has just informed me that if I do not shave my facial hair completely off (clean shaven) by Saturday I have to “hit the road.” He has brought up that I need to either shave or wear a beard net prior, and I was fine with wearing the beard net. But it seems, as of today, that option is off the table. Can he legally terminate me for that?

Asked on May 30, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Actually, he probably can. An employer is free to change its mind as to the conditions of the workplace and to impose new regulations and terms of employment much as it sees fit. For your part you can choose to shave or be fired (or quit). This is what is known as "at will" employment.

That is unless you have an employment contract that forbids your being termiated for something such as this, or a union agreement that does not allow your discharge based on these facts, or your employer's action will violate its own company policy. Additionally, if your treatment will be the result of actionable discrimination, it would be illegal. In other words, there can be no discrimination in employment based on an employees inclusion in a protected class based on such factors as: race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, national origin (howver having a beard does not put you in such a class).
 
Bottom line, a business has the right to put forth the company image that it wants. Seemingly unfair or not, it's the law.


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