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You Can't Wear That to Work

But What About My Rights?

Thomas Cox’s article “You Can’t Wear That to Work: But What About My Rights?” was featured in the Atlanta Tribune on September 1, 2015.

A popular restaurant recently made news for amending its dress code. Among the items no longer permitted are engagement rings and “bright” hair. On the other hand, nose piercings and tattoos are permitted. What are the limits to an employer’s right to implement and enforce an appearance code? Do employees retain the right to freely express themselves through their attire and “look,” so long as it does not disrupt business.

In the article, Thomas discusses how employers have many valid business reasons for adopting policies that regulate dress and appearance in the workplace. For instance, employers may seek to promote a certain public image through the dress and appearance of its employees. A company’s dress and appearance policy is also viewed by some employers as a way to increase harmony and productivity, and to present a unified corporate image to its customers.

He advises employers to evaluate their dress and appearance policies to determine if particular forms of dress or self-expression are, in fact, religious practices that require an accommodation. In evaluating whether to adopt a dress and appearance policy, management should consult with a human resources professional, a competent employment counsel, and also consider the potential positive and negative impact that the proposed policy could bring. Establishing a relationship between the policy and the success of the business is one way to help defend the policy if challenged. The best defense for employers, however, is litigation prevention through the adoption of a sound policy.

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