Anticouni & Ricotta - Employment Law

Dress codes at work can be a subtle form of discrimination

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2022 | Workplace Discrimination |

Sometimes, workplace racial discrimination is obvious. A company refuses to hire people from certain backgrounds or only promotes people from one racial group. A review of their actions over the course of several months or years will reveal an obvious trend. 

However, companies often hide subtle forms of discrimination in plain sight. They can create rules that allow them to mistreat or discipline certain workers, sometimes for issues outside of their control. Dress codes, for example, are a way for businesses to discriminate against certain workers. Hairstyle and grooming rules, in particular, can lead to unfair burdens for people with naturally curly hair like African-Americans.

If your employer has either of the two policies below in their handbook, enforcement of these policies could be a violation of your rights.

They forbid facial hair

For many years, a clean-shaven face was the standard for professionalism. The recent uptick in the popularity of beards has changed that at some companies, but not at all of them.

Some businesses have a no-beard policy in their dress codes, but this kind of policy can place an unfair burden on some workers, they may be more inclined to skin irritation from frequent shaving. 

They have rules against protective hairstyles

One form of cultural racial discrimination that is quite widespread is the association of certain hairstyles with professionalism. Specifically, the idea that people need to have straight, flat hair to look professional is quite unfair to those whose hair does not lay flat naturally. California actually has a law against employers prohibiting protective or natural hairstyles. 

Recognizing subtle racial discrimination can help you fight back against it. Don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance when you need it.

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