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When Dress Code Is Unlawful

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Can dress code policies allow – or even require – men and women to dress differently?

Swedish bus drivers have a dress code that doesn’t allow them to wear shorts. Only long pants or skirts. So the men started wearing skirts, which the dress code did technically allow.

In the US, where bosses are smarter (there, I said it), most dress codes specify that women may wear skirts. Come to think of it though, is that discriminatory? No.

In the US, a female bartender at Harrah’s Casino, was told that under their new beverage department image transformation program she had to wear makeup (apparently doing away with the old image policy that bartenders looked better once the patrons had a few drinks). She refused and was fired.

She sued, claiming the policy constituted sex discrimination. She lost that case because the judges found that grooming and appearance standards that apply differently to women and men do not necessarily constitute discrimination. Grooming and appearance don’t have to be identical to be lawful.

The policy cannot, however, impose a far more burdensome standard on one sex than another but simply allowing men to dress like men and women to dress like women is the American way.

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