Corporate clothing dress codes are designed to create a uniform workforce that looks professional and shows a structured unified front to the public. In short, dress codes are designed to make your company look good in the public’s eye.
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But more often than not dress codes can lead to indirect discrimination in the workplace due to religion or gender. If you feel that your company’s corporate clothing dress codes are discriminating against your gender or religion, speak to your boss in private, and tell them how you feel. There are global laws in place that protect workers from this sort of discrimination, so be professional and get your point across without being emotional.
Let’s take a look at a few types of corporate clothing discrimination in the workplace.
Religious Discrimination and Corporate Clothing
A corporate clothing dress code that requires a person to act in a way contrary to their religious believes risks being discriminatory.
For instance a dress code that prohibits a person from wearing hats can be discriminatory to male Sikhs, who have to wear a turban. The same goes for Muslim women who have to wear a hijab, which covers their hair.
In most instances employers are sensitive to the religious views of their employees. As long as the specific religious clothing does not interfere with the safety or quality of the employees work it should not pose a problem.
However, in some instances employers may object to certain religious appearances due to safety reasons. Workers at a chocolate factory where successfully banned from having beards, due to health and safety reasons. This is a rare example, and in most cases courts will rule in favor of the religious views of the employee. Just remember that it is illegal for a company to fire you due to religious reasons.
Sexism and Corporate Clothing
Gender specific discrimination in the workplace is a minefield of tricky questions and dilemmas. For instance, corporate clothing uniforms that require men to wear pants and women to wear skirts can be seen as discriminatory. Forcing women to wear skirts is seen as old fashioned, and skirts are not always the most comfortable work attire.
Keep in mind that if your company’s dress code treats one sex less favorably than the other, you might have a valid claim against sexism in the workplace. For instance, if your company enforces a rule where women must wear skirts, high heels and make-up, but does not enforce the same type of strict rules with regards to male employee’s appearances, you might have a valid claim.
Disability Discrimination and Corporate Clothing
For obvious reasons, disabled employees may not be able to comply with certain dress code criteria. For instance, an employee with a neck injury will not be able to wear a tie. Or a female employee in a wheelchair might feel more comfortable wearing pants, rather than a skirt.
Dress codes should never be strict and uncompromising rules. Dress codes should be flexible and take into consideration each and every employee’s individual beliefs and constraints.