I have had a nose ring since before I was hired. Can my employer make up a new, more strict dress code, and make me remove my nose ring?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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I have had a nose ring since before I was hired. Can my employer make up a new, more strict dress code, and make me remove my nose ring?

I have had a nose ring since I was 18 years old. I wear a small, metal stud in
it. I have worked for the same institution since I graduated from college. No
one at this institution has ever requested that I remove my nose ring. When I
was hired into my current position years ago, my supervisor did not request that
I remove or cover it up. Every year, my supervisor’s supervisor revamps the
dress code to be more restrictive. This year’s version mentions piercings, and
says the only acceptable ones are to be worn in the ear lobes. No one has come
to me individually yet and asked me to remove my nose ring. If they do, what
should I do? I feel like I shouldn’t have to remove it, considering I was hired
with it and this new dress code is sort of too little, too late.

Asked on April 2, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As general matter, a business may put in place dress and appearance codes at any time and typically the law does not protect body art. That is unless such a policy violates the terms of a union agreement/employment contract or if it results in some form of legally actionable discrimination (i.e. is based on based on race, gender, age, disability and religion, etc.). Accordingly, if for example, your nose ring has religous significance, then your employer cannot bar it (however merely calling something "religious" does not automatically give it protection; you would have to give proof that it is required by your faith). Bottom line, as an "at will" worker you'll have to remove your nose ring or risk termination.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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