Employers often set rules regarding how their employees are expected to dress in the workplace. Employers should ensure that any dress code they propose does not amount to discrimination.

Discrimination is against the law if a person is treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic, such as his or her race, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Although it is not unlawful under federal law to discriminate on the basis of religion, the Commission may investigate complaints of religious discrimination in employment and try to resolve these by conciliation.

Rules regarding dress could be discriminatory if they single out some employees for different treatment because of their background or certain personal characteristics.

Example: An employer’s dress code requires female employees to wear revealing clothing but this does not apply to male employees. This could be sex discrimination.

It could also be discrimination if an employer puts in place a dress code that appears to treat everyone the same but which actually disadvantages some people because of a certain personal characteristics. If the requirement is not reasonable in the circumstances, it could be discrimination.

Example: It may be indirect discrimination if a policy says that all employees must wear a particular uniform if it is difficult for a pregnant employee to wear that uniform.