Employers implement dress codes at the Workplace for many reasons, including promoting a certain vision or brand, ensuring employees comply with safety standards, and creating a more professional workplace. While dress codes may assist with these objectives, employers should make sure they are complying with the human rights legislation before creating and implementing their dress code policies.
Gendered or Sexualized Dress Codes
While employers may have a certain vision for their company, employers should consider whether their dress code is gendered or discriminates their employees based on their sex. Employers who formally require or informally encourage their female employees to wear skirts, high heels, or make-up to “attract clients” may wish to reconsider their dress codes, particularly because the differential treatment may foster a discriminatory workplace environment.
Employers should also consider whether their dress code adversely targets their employees’ gender identity and expression, and should be mindful to accommodate their pregnant employees.
Religious, Racial, and Ethnic Considerations
Employees may have religious garments or personal grooming which need to be considered by the employers’ dress code. In some cases, employers will need to balance these employee needs with the health and safety obligations of the company, as well as consider whether the employer’s request is, in fact, a bona fide occupational requirement.
As this balancing is based on the facts of the case, it is best for employers to consult with a human rights lawyer to ensure their policies and practices are proper and justified.
Employers should also consider whether their dress code allows for accommodation of an employee’s disability. For example, non-restrictive clothing should be permitted for employees with limited mobility. Employers may also need to adjust their expectations as disability needs arise.
Directing employees how to dress may be risky, or at the very least, tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Employers should keep the above considerations in mind when drafting their dress-code policies, and make sure they have a non-discriminatory, justifiable reason for enforcing dress codes.
Employers should be careful—while they may have good intentions, they may unintentionally be discriminating against their employees with unnecessary dress codes.
To assist with ensuring their dress-code policies are compliant with human rights legislation, employers should present their employees with a range of inclusive options to address individual needs while still achieving the company’s objectives.
Contact Us for Help
Whether you’re an employer looking to draft or update your dress code to be compliant with the law, or an employee who has questions or concerns about their dress code, our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law would be happy to help you further navigate the topic.
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