Am I being treated unfairly if the men and women at my workplace have a different dress code?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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Am I being treated unfairly if the men and women at my workplace have a different dress code?

I’m a male. Women are allowed to have extreme hair color at the tattoo shop I work at, as well as facial piercings. In fact, 1 other male has facial piercings. I’m told that I cannot wear my piercings or have my hair an extreme color. No written dress code has ever been given to me; I was just told by the owner verbally.

Asked on November 3, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

It *may* be illegal gender-based discrimination, but it's not clear: while employers may not, as a general proposition, treat men and women differently, that principal runs up against the counterveiling principal that employers may promulgate dress codes for their employees, which dress codes may take into consideration community expectations for reasonable dress, so if in your community, extreme hair color or facial piercings is considered more acceptable for women than men, the employer may be able to have different dress codes for men and women to reflect that. 
In addition, if another male has facial piercings, that undercuts the argument that this is gender-based discrimination--the employer may simply not favor *you* as an individual (or prefer the other male), and the law allows employees to be treated differently so long as the difference is not due to protected class differences, like gender.
In short: you have stated a situation would may be illegal discrimation, but is far from a clear-cut case, which means that you could not file a complaint (e.g. with the EEOC or your state civil/equal rights agency) or a lawsuit with any real or strong degree of confidence in the outcome.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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