Employment lawyer Mirande Valbrune warns that gender-based dress codes continue to raise concerns in the workplace, and those employers creating and enforcing these dress codes could violate gender discrimination laws. Employers should craft a gender-neutral dress code policy that requires professionally appropriate attire for the office or unit in which an employee works. Once a policy is created, it must be enforced equally and consistently without burdening one gender compared to another, and grooming guidelines can be included as long as they are reasonable and serve a legitimate business purpose, such as for safety, promotional and marketing opportunities, easy identification of employees, and others. While there are no specific federal civil employee rights laws addressing transgender employees or protecting gender identity, employers should be aware that this evolving area of law needs to be addressed. The majority of federal courts find that discrimination against transgender people violates federal sex discrimination laws and a number of state laws already explicitly protect transgender and transitioning employees from employment discrimination. Dress codes should allow transgender employees to feel comfortable living full-time in the role consistent with their gender identity, and should not prevent them from maintaining a gender-neutral appearance.
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