California employers can enact mandatory dress code policies for their employees if they are reasonable and do not significantly burden their employees or violate their rights to freedom of religion or violate any federal or state anti-discrimination laws. Furthermore, California employers can require that their employees wear mandatory work uniforms, as long as they pay for them and do not require their employees to pay for work uniforms.
According to the California Government Code, employers can require their employees to comply with specific dress code policies, as long as their policies are reasonable. Whether an employer's dress code policy is reasonable depends on the applicable policy. Generally, California law and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prohibit employers from enacting discriminatory dress code policies.
Constitutional Rights and Anti-Discrimination Laws
Employers cannot enact dress code policies that violate an employee's constitutional right to freedom of religion. Furthermore, an employer's dress code policy cannot discriminate against employees based on religion, race, gender or disability, according to the federal equal employment opportunity laws. For example, an employer cannot place a blanket ban on headscarves for their employees if they are not tied to his legitimate business needs.
Legitimate Business Needs
California employers can enact reasonable dress code and grooming policies that are legitimately based on their business needs and financial goals. They may enact policies that prohibit certain apparel for men but allow women to wear the apparel or adornments, such as earrings, as long as their reasons for doing so are based on legitimate business needs. However, California law also allows employers to base their business dress codes on normative standards or popular social beliefs, as long as their policies are not discriminatory.
California Fair Employment and Housing Commission
The California Fair Employment and Housing Commission protects employees from unfair and discriminatory employment practices. The commission prohibits California employers from enacting dress code policies that discriminate against employees based on federally protected equal employment opportunity laws, encourage a hostile work environment or promote sexually harassing behaviors. For example, employers cannot require their female employees to wear revealing clothing or sexually suggestive clothing without showing legitimate financial reasons for enacting those policies. Furthermore, as required by the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, California employers must allow their cross-dressing employees to follow dress code policies assigned to opposite-sex employees. For instance, an employer must allow a male employee to wear work-appropriate female apparel.
California Labor Code
According to the California Labor Code, employers can require that their employees wear mandatory work uniforms as long as they do not violate the equal employment opportunity regulations. Furthermore, employers who require that their employees wear work uniforms that are unsuitable for use outside of work must pay for their employees. Employers cannot deduct pay from an employee's paycheck to cover uniform costs.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #16 -- Deductions From Wages for Uniforms and Other Facilities Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- California Department of Industrial Relations: Deductions
- California Industrial Welfare Commission: Wage Order No. 9 -- Transportation Industry
- Sutton Hatmaker Law Corporation: California Dress Code
Jill Stimson has worked in various property management positions in Maryland and Delaware. Stimson worked for the top three property management companies in the commercial industry and focuses her career on property building logistics and tenant relationships. She holds a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Science in psychology.