I started the "Fun with Employment Law" posts mainly to provide some entertainment, but the inaugural post has actually generated a thoughtful response — and one that I thought warranted comment.
After reading the 1/13/13 post where I advised that German employers were permitted to require female employees to wear nude or white bras, a reader sent a comment that posed the more basic question of whether an employer could even establish a dress code and if so, what if an employee claimed their religion prevented them from complying with the dress code.
The fact is, employers are allowed to establish dress codes. A dress code cannot be discriminatory on its face, however. Years ago, I saw a dress code that said employees could not wear "ethnic hairstyles." If you thought, yikes, when you read that, then you are on the right track. As for the second question, employers may have to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs that conflict with a dress code, provided that doing so does not create an undue hardship.
These religious accommodation requests can often be tricky, as multiple pasts posts demonstrate. (See 1/18/13 post regarding a pentecostal cashier for a recent example). Employers are cautioned to take the time to think through an employee’s request rather than relying on a strict, "sorry, we have a dress code" response.