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Men: Is my boss allowed to dictate the terms of my appearance?

Employers have the legal authority to create and enforce dress codes for their employees. However, there are limits on what they can require.

In our last post, we discussed some of the requirements employers can—and can’t—place on female employees regarding their outer appearance. In today’s article, we examine a few such issues that may affect men.

Can my boss dictate my grooming?

In some jobs, employers may not only require an employee uniform or dress code, they may also have rules against employees maintaining an unkempt appearance. Therefore, it may be acceptable for your boss to require you to tweeze your eyebrows, trim your facial hair or maintain a nail and hand care routine.

However, it would not be appropriate to enforce such rules for some male employees and not others. In addition, if there are workplace grooming rules for men, there should also be grooming rules for women—even if they are different.

Can my boss make me cut my hair?

You may be rocking the man bun look. When your boss tells you to cut your hair short, you may be wondering whether they have the right to make such a demand. After all, female employees are allowed to have long hair.

It is, in fact, legal for employers to require short hair for men and not women. As noted above, grooming requirements may differ between genders. However, if such requirements impose greater burden on men compared to women, there may be grounds for a sex discrimination lawsuit.

Can my boss make me shave my beard?

Your beard may serve many purpose. It may make you look older, contour your face or just cover up adult acne. Therefore, when your boss tells you to shave, you may be resistant.

From a legal perspective, employers may require male employees to shave as long as it does not infringe on their civil rights or cause undue hardship. There are two main examples that have been successful in court:

  • Religious discrimination: If your religion prevents you from shaving, your boss cannot require it.
  • Hardship due to medical reasons: For example, if you have Pseudofolliculitis Barbae—a skin condition that makes shaving painful—a court will likely rule that you should not have to shave.

If you believe your boss is placing unlawful requirements on your appearance, it’s worth discussing your case with an employment attorney. You may have legal recourse.

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