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Dress Codes and Appearance Policies: Challenges Under Federal Legislation, Part 2Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Gender

Mitchell, Michael S. JD, LLM; Koen, Clifford M. Jr JD; Darden, Stephen M. JD

doi: 10.1097/01.HCM.0000440617.09020.d3

As more and more individuals express themselves with tattoos and body piercings and push the envelope on what is deemed appropriate in the workplace, employers have an increased need for creation and enforcement of reasonable dress codes and appearance policies. As with any employment policy or practice, an appearance policy must be implemented and enforced without regard to an individual’s race, color, gender, national origin, religion, disability, age, or other protected status. A policy governing dress and appearance based on the business needs of an employer that is applied fairly and consistently and does not have a disproportionate effect on any protected class will generally be upheld if challenged in court. By examining some of the more common legal challenges to dress codes and how courts have resolved the disputes, health care managers can avoid many potential problems. This article, the second part of a 3-part examination of dress codes and appearance policies, focuses on the issue of gender under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pertinent court cases that provide guidance for employers are addressed.

Author Affiliations: Fisher & Phillips, LLP, New Orleans, Louisiana (Mr Mitchell); Department of Management and Marketing, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City (Mr Koen); Hunter, Smith & Davis, LLP, Johnson City, Tennessee (Mr Darden).

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Clifford M. Koen Jr, JD, Department of Management and Marketing, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614-1709 (

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins