Is the dress code at your work subtly racist?

On Behalf of | Oct 27, 2022 | Employment Law

The federal and state employment laws require that employers treat all workers with dignity and that they do not engage in racism or other forms of discrimination based on protected characteristics. Someone’s religion, age, health condition or cultural background should not limit their opportunities for employment or prevent them from developing a successful career.

Unfortunately, some people who run businesses allow their personal biases to affect how they interact with staff members and prospective new employees. Managers, business owners and even human resources professionals may allow their internal biases to dictate who they hire, who they promote and who gets the best raises.

Sometimes, racial discrimination is subtle and takes the form of a company policy. Dress codes can easily contain requirements that imposed unfair obligations on certain staff members.

Grooming standards may affect some races more than others

Requiring that workers come to work looking clean and professional is an appropriate expectation. Demanding that all men maintain shaved faces or that all employees have straight hair or what have traditionally been viewed as professional hairstyles could be a racist inclusion in the company dress code.

Straightening hair and conforming to those standards can be very difficult for people with different ethnic backgrounds, especially if they have naturally curly or coarse hair. Workers may need to invest an hour or more in hair styling every day or hundreds of dollars monthly and professional services. Additionally, requiring clean-shaven faces can create more hardship for individuals with darker skin, as they may be more likely to develop razor burn and similar marks on their face from daily shaving.

Do you need to fight an unfair company policy?

Many businesses have outdated dress codes and rules in their handbooks that they no longer enforce. While it would be ideal for the company to update its documents, workers don’t necessarily need to take action to change the handbook if the company does not enforce those rules.

However, if the company does demand that workers conform to unfair appearance standards or if management attempts to take punitive actions against someone for failing to meet those discriminatory standards, going to work may need to challenge the policy and the companies. Recognizing the more subtle forms of racial discrimination you may experience on the job could help you fight back for your own benefit and the protection of future workers at the company. Reach out to the experienced discrimination attorneys at Alan C. Olson & As


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