If you work in California, your employer may require you and your coworkers to adhere to an employee dress code policy based on business need. Dress codes, uniform requirements, and grooming rules can help regulate employee appearance and even ensure a safe work environment. But can you be fired for violating your company dress code? It depends. At times, workplace dress codes and appearance policies may constitute workplace discrimination or result in wrongful termination.
Dress Code Laws in the California Workplace
Under California law, your employer can impose a dress code policy as long as it does not impinge upon your employee rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). As with other workplace rules and policies, your employer can fire you for violating the employee dress code. However, there are times that your employer cannot discriminate against or fire you when a dress code violation is related to your membership of a protected class (e.g. religion, sex, gender identity, disability, etc).
Examples of Illegal Workplace Dress Code Policies
California law prohibits employers from enforcing the following common types of dress code and grooming policies in the workplace:
- Banning employees of one gender from wearing pants (e.g. requiring women to wear skirts or dresses).
- Requiring employees of just one gender to wear uniforms.
- Banning transgender employees from dressing as or taking on the appearance of the gender with which they most identify.
- Requiring disabled employees to wear certain attire or uniforms. This can constitute disability discrimination if the uniform or attire makes it more difficult for the disabled employee to move around or perform work tasks.
- Forcing employees to be clean-shaven which can discriminate against certain religions or nationalities.
- Forcing employees to cover tattoos or piercings if they are related to a religious belief.
- Forcing employees to have short hair which can discriminate against certain religions.
Dress code and appearance policies in the California workplace must be written and specific. If your employer enforces a dress code, it must also be applied in a nondiscriminatory way. Your employer should always use discretion and consider California’s reasonable accommodation laws when dealing with dress code violations that may be protected under California law.
What to Do if Your Employer Violates California Dress Code Laws
If you feel that your employer has an unlawful dress code policy, or has fired you due to your appearance or attire at work as it relates to a protected characteristic, rest assured that California employment law can protect you. Contact the passionate California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.