Dress codes are common, whether they relate to actual uniforms that employees have to wear or just a general code that allows them to choose their own outfits within a certain style.
However, employees may not be happy to be told what to wear and may even claim that you’re violating their rights by telling them they can and cannot choose certain outfits.
Are dress codes legal for American employers?
Equal application is the key
Dress codes are definitely legal, but the key is that they must apply equally to everyone. If they do not, they can appear discriminatory.
For instance, workers of one ethnicity cannot be told that they have to follow a specific code while workers of another ethnicity are allowed to dress however they want. This could constitute racial discrimination.
Similarly, it could be gender discrimination if, for instance, men are allowed to wear anything they choose but women are told they have to follow a specific code.
In short, an employee who complains about a dress code likely does not have any legal grounds to do so if the dress code is applied to all employees, if it clearly reflects a need in the workplace, and if proper exceptions are made for cases like disabilities or religious conflicts. The goal, as with most policies, is just to treat all of your employees the same. If your dress code does that, you’re allowed to enforce it.
Even so, your employees may not be happy about the dress code and may threaten to take legal action. You know the code is fair and legal, so be sure you also know what options you have to fight these claims and protect your company.