Can an employer tell my friend that he cannot wear make up?

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Can an employer tell my friend that he cannot wear make up?

My friend works at hamburger chain and they told him he cannot wear make up because it might offend people. However there are girls who wear make up there and they do not tell them they can’t wear make up. When confronted the owner said it was misrepresentation of character because he did not wear make up to the interview. I need to know so I can assist him with a possible case. The owner said he has already consulted his lawyers before coming to this conclusion.

Asked on June 22, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In an "at will" employment relationship (and most are), an employer may generally impose restriction/requirements as it deems fit. This is true unless there is a union/employment contract to the contrary or an action violates existing company policy. Additionally there must not be any discriminatory practice involved. For example, there can be no difference in treatment based on gender. The latter having been said, courts have held that sex-differentiated appearance standards are generally permissible if they do not impose "unequal burdens" on male and females. Therefore, a grooming policy that applies equally to men and women and is aimed at creating a professional and very similar look for all of them may be legal. Bottom line, while there then can be differences in appearance and grooming standards, the effect on the employees must be relatively equal.


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