Can my employer tell me to change my appearance in order to keep my job?

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Can my employer tell me to change my appearance in order to keep my job?

My employer asked me a couple of days ago to change my appearance. I am 60 years old and she wants me to style and dye my hair, wear makeup and switch from glasses to contact lenses. I don’t have any weird stuff on my face no tongue studs or nose piercings or anything like that. I have worked at this job for four years and nothing was said about my appearance until 2 days ago. Frankly, I feel a little insulted. I work as a front desk clerk at a hotel. Am I overreacting or can she tell me to do this to keep my job?

Asked on July 1, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer has free rein to set dress, grooming, appearance, etc. standards for work and to ask  employees to change their appearance to keep their jobs. That is a consequence of the doctrine of "employment at will," which is the law of the land (unless you have a written employment contract to the contrary): employees have no right to their jobs and have them only so long as employers wish to emplyee them, which enables employers to set rules, terms, conditions, etc. on work.
But as with most things, there are exceptions. An employer may not discriminate against an employee age 40 or over due to his or her age. Discrimination includes treating him or her different due to his or her age. IF the cosmetic changes the employer has requested are to make you look younger, that may well be illegal age-related age discrimation. If you believe it is, contact the federal EEOC about possibly filing an age-discrimination complaint.


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