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appearance policy, dress code, federal legislation, harassment, health care managers, religious discrimination



  1. Mitchell, Michael S. JD, LLM
  2. Koen, Clifford M. Jr JD
  3. Moore, Thomas W. PhD


As more and more individuals choose to express themselves and their religious beliefs with headwear, jewelry, dress, 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, sex, national origin, religion, disability, age, or any 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 addresses the issue of religious discrimination focusing on dress and appearance and some of the court cases that provide guidance for employers.