Employers cannot discriminate in their dress codes

Magazines this year have been full of articles about how to dress while working from home. Workers proudly posted photos to social media showing their smart upper half, mixed with a casual bottom half. Others posted videos of unfortunate colleagues caught on camera, getting it wrong.

It can be hard to know what your employer expects you to wear when working remotely. After months of dressing casually, returning to work in a physical location can also lead to confusion. Much depends on your role or your workday. If you spend your days buried in spreadsheets without seeing anyone, it may not matter what you wear. If you have a customer-facing role, it clearly does.

While many companies have adjusted their dress code policy to address the situation, others have not addressed it, leaving grounds for misinterpretation by management or employees. However, a dress code or no dress code, one thing is sure. As a New York City employee, you have the right to work free from discrimination based on how you dress. In addition, New York City last year introduced legislation protecting people’s right to wear “natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities.”

Businesses are allowed to insist you adhere to their dress code. However, these dress codes need to be applied equally across the board. Employers cannot expect a woman to make more effort than a man, for example. Employers must also make accommodation for variations due to religious differences.

If you feel your employer is discriminating against you on the grounds of race, sex or gender, seek legal help. There are city, state and federal state laws to protect you.

super lawyers
New York County Lawyers Association
New York City Bar
NELA Advocates for Employee Rights National Employment Lawyers Association
lead counsel lc verified