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Does your employer's dress code violate your civil rights?

High schools in Illinois and across the country are dealing with many serious issues. Some administrations believe they can combat these issues through adherence to a strict dress code. In the business world, dress codes exist to promote the image of company professionalism, to make it easy for clients to distinguish employees or for safety issues. However, employers must be careful that their dress code policies do not violate the civil rights of their workers.

There are no laws to prevent employers from requiring a certain standard of dress and grooming for their employees. The issues arise when those policies discriminate against those of one gender by placing an unequal burden on them. For example, an employer may require women to wear makeup or certain hair styles but only stipulate that men appear well-groomed. Policies demanding women to wear skirts are not ideal but less problematic if similar restrictions are placed on men.

More employers are discovering that gender-specific dress codes, such as skirts only for women, become a civil rights issue for those who do not conform to genders. While no laws yet name transitioning and transgender employees as protected classes, many courts agree that discrimination against them does violate laws forbidding sex discrimination. For this reason, employers are cautioned to minimize their exposure to lawsuits by making their dress code policy language as gender-neutral as possible.

Employees have the right to a work environment free from discrimination or harassment. When dress codes or other workplace policies violate the civil rights of an employee, it may create a hostile work environment. In such cases, workers may find advocacy and assistance from a skilled Illinois attorney.

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