I’m not a fan of click-bait, so if you clicked the headline just to know whether your company can still have a dress code policy after the Supreme Court’s decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the answer is “yes”.
But there’s an important caveat and for that, you’ll need to read on.
The Court’s decision has caused a bit of a ruckus with some commentators portending massive changes to discrimination law. As I said last week, I just don’t see that.
The evidence in the case, according to the lower court’s decision, was that the supervisor had believed that the job applicant was “Muslim” and “figured that was the religious reason why she wore her head scarf.”
Moreover, despite being scored highly in her job interview, the area manager said that the job applicant “should not be hired because she wore a headscarf—a clothing item that was inconsistent with the [company’s] Look Policy.”
In other words, there was more than ample evidence that the applicant’s religious practices played a factor in the Company’s decision not to hire her.
How could a company get tripped up by its own dress code or “look” policy? Well, for one, the policy did not explicitly state that its policy could be tweaked in some instances to accommodate religious practices. Even the company has now dropped that policy.
All is not lost though for the rest of us. Dress codes are still acceptable. But companies should not treat them as hardened laws, never to be broken.
One simple fix is to add a clause regarding reasonable accommodations such as this:
Employees who believe a reasonable accommodation to this policy should be granted based on religion, disability or other grounds protected by applicable law should feel free to discuss the matter with their supervisor. Reasonable accommodation will be granted unless it would cause an undue hardship on the employer or other business circumstances warrant.
Obviously, each policy should be tailored to your business and to your state, so — as with your employee handbook — you should have this language reviewed by your employment law counsel.
Now, whether dress codes are a good thing? That’s an entirely separate question for another day…..