Can my employer force me to look or dress a certain way?
A former employee is suing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for $35 million because, he claims, the Manhattan store attempted to force him to wear women’s clothing and ultimately fired him when he failed to comply. The former employee is transgender and born female, but identifies as male. Abercrombie & Fitch was aware of this during the hiring process and told the employee he could wear men’s clothing as he desired. Later, however, the Fifth Avenue store informed the employee that he could only wear women’s clothing due to the company’s “look policy.” When the transgender employee refused to wear women’s clothing, he was fired.
This is not the first time Abercrombie & Fitch has faced serious legal action due to its “look policy.” In 2015, a Muslim woman sued the company when it declined to hire her because she wore a headscarf. The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and Abercrombie & Fitch was forced to reform its notorious “look policy.”
“Look Policies” and Dress Codes
Many employers impose dress or grooming codes for employees, and generally they have a legal right to do so. Some companies will require business attire, while others have a more relaxed dress code. Retail employers may require employees to wear uniforms with the company logo or dress in a particular style of clothing. All of these dress codes are legal, so long as they do not discriminate.
Dress Codes and Discrimination
A dress code is discriminatory if it treats employees differently based on that person’s race, color, sex, national origin, disability, or religion, or if the dress code has a disproportionately negative effect on employees of a protected class. Further, even if the dress code does not discriminate, employers may be required to make exceptions to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or disability.
If you believe your employer’s dress code may be discriminatory, contact the Law Offices of Yale Pollack, P.C. Our experienced New York employment law attorneys will review your potential case and evaluate your legal rights. Call our firm at (516) 262-5028 to schedule your consultation today.