We recently wrote that Title VII does not prohibit dress or grooming rules per se, but that such rules may run afoul of Title VII if they have a disparate impact on, for example, employees who have religious beliefs which require a certain dress or hair style.
With regard to hair styling in particular, we quoted a Missouri Department of Labor spokeswoman:
"An employer may condition a job on an employee’s compliance with the employer’s hair styling preferences, unless the employee’s alternative hair styling preference is connected with the employee’s inclusion in a protected category. For example, a particular hair style may be a tenet of the employee’s religion, or the employer may decline to hire a prospective employee because the employee is considered to be disabled because of his or her hair style (such as believing someone without hair to be suffering from cancer)."
We just found a very comprehensive article on workplace dress codes, and whether they may impact not only the religious beliefs of employees, but also have a disparate gender impact.
The Business Management Daily of June 4, 2012 prefaces its article by noting that “Female employees who are accused of wearing clothing that is too revealing may complain of sexism. Male employees prohibited from wearing shorts, for example, may argue that a double standard exists because females are permitted to wear skirts. But don’t let employees’ complaints prevent you from upholding your company’s appearance standards. Employers have the right to define appropriate attire in their workplaces.”
The article then goes on to describe what is appropriate workplace dress, and what is appropriate workplace dress codes, and poses a set of questions and challenges you to “Test your casual dress code policy against these questions to see if you are on safe ground.”