Employment Law

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Can enforcing a dress code be sexual harassment?

by | Oct 26, 2018 | Sexual Harassment |

Most employers in Kansas City may attempt to establish a baseline standard when it comes to workplace expectations. Included in those expectations may be a dress code. While not everyone may be happy with a company’s dress code, company representatives are entitled to enforce it. Could there be situations, however, where the enforcement of a company dress code constitutes sexual harassment

The answer to that question typically depends on the context of the situation. Dress codes are typically allowed in order to identify employees, establish a brand identity, or to create a more organized (and professional) office environment. If, however, the intent of a dress code strays from those distinct purposes, problems may arise. 

If, for example, you work in a position where you interact with current and potential clients, and your company’s dress code seems to encourage provocative attire, then it could open the door to claims of sexual harassment. Keep in mind that your company can ask you to wear certain things to work, yet you can also ask for certain accommodations due to your religious beliefs or you having a disability. According to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, your employer is expected to work with you in this regard to the point that it does not cause it to experience an undue hardship. 

Another area where dress code enforcement could potentially be considered sexual harassment is in cases involving gender disparities. Say your company’s dress code requires that women wear outfits and accessories that seem to objectify them (e.g., only allowing dresses and skirts, requiring certain amounts of makeup), while not imposing the same standards on men, then it could certainly be viewed as creating the type of hostile and uneasy work environment that contributes to sexual harassment. 

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