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How dress codes lead to gender, race and cultural discrimination

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2024 | Discrimination

Many businesses require employees to follow dress codes. In essence, dress codes establish a certain atmosphere or aesthetic toward a business’s brand. Employees may be required to wear uniforms with the business’s logo or, at the very least, wear business casual clothing. 

It may not always be obvious, but dress codes can be discriminatory. An individual’s gender, race and religion may be discriminated against because of certain restrictions enforced by dress codes. Here is how that can happen:

Limiting cultural hairstyles

Some dress codes have hygiene policies, which may target people’s body odors and makeup. A hygiene policy may also enforce certain hairstyles. These policies may state that individuals can not have colored hair, that hair must be cut at a certain length and set in a specific style. 

As a result, people with different hair textures could be wrongfully targeted. For example, African American people who have a natural curly may have to use expensive and harmful products to follow dress codes. This kind of policy could not only target a person’s racial background but also their culture. Some cultures hold their hair length and style in high esteem, which could be discriminated against if a hygiene policy is enforced. 

Setting preconceived gender notions 

Dress codes may require each gender to dress in a specific way. For example, men may need to wear suits with ties and dress shoes and women may be required to wear suits, skirts and heels. If one gender is required to wear more formal clothing and the other is not, then it could set preconceived gender notions. These kinds of notions may be discriminatory toward a gender.

It is important for businesses to understand how to create and enforce their dress codes in a way that does not discriminate against others. If an employee believes they are facing discrimination at their place of work, they can reach out for help to discuss their legal rights.