Changes in Policy

After working for an employer for 4 years, you have changed nothing about
yourself or your appearance from when you were hired, then they change the dress
code policy that clearly targets you and your appearance, is this a form of
discrimination? The majority of the changes are targeting females within the
office so would this be considered sexual discrimination?

Asked on April 18, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether there is a nonsexual reason for the changes or not. For example: if the employer has decided that translucent blouses, short skirts, excessive make-up, tube or tank tops, etc. are inappropriate and unprofessional, or that tatoos must be covered up, that is legal, because even if it is affecting women more than men, the reason has nothing to do with sex or gender: it's to have a professional and/or more uniform look. A change or policy is not discriminatory just because one sex is affected more, if there is non-sex, etc. reason for it. On the other hand, if woman are now being sexualized by being required to wear shorter or skimpier or more revealing outfits, that would likely be considered sex-based harassment or discrimination and you should contact the EEOC to discuss this.
More generally: employers may change dress codes or standards of appearance at will--the employer has free discretion in this regard.

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