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

UPDATED: May 30, 2012

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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


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

Answered 10 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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