It's National Hat Day! January 15th is set aside as a day to wear and enjoy any hat that tickles your fancy. But while some employees would like to celebrate the holiday by (literally) wearing multiple hats in the workplace, they may find their employers have banned hats altogether.
Is it legal to ban hats at work -- even on National Hat Day?
Hat Policies at Work
Employers are allowed to enact and enforce dress codes that place reasonable restrictions and requirements on employees' appearance. But employers should beware certain legal issues that can crop up from such policies.
When it comes to hats, employers should pay close attention to the following potential issues:
- Religious headwear. A policy that makes no mention of a particular religion can still function to discriminate by affecting only certain religious groups. For example, a hat ban could de facto discriminate against employees who wear yarmulkes, hijabs, or other religious headwear. Be prepared to eliminate -- or if truly necessary, legally justify -- a hat ban that negatively impacts a particular religious group, as it may amount to unlawful religious discrimination.
- Offensive images or slogans. Employers should consider banishing hats that display profanity, nude or semi-nude images, vulgar slogans, drug references, or any other themes that may be inappropriate in the workplace. The goal should be to prohibit hats that may offend certain employees and lead to sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits.
- Logo apparel. Also think about whether political slogans, sports team logos, advertisements for products, or other hats with logos are inappropriate for your workplace and should be prohibited. For example, allowing people to wear rhinestone-studded trucker hats that display your competitor's logo could be playfully ironic for the team, or they could be kind of horrible for company morale. At the end of the day, it's your call, so think it through.
Need More Help?
Above all, a policy against hats at work should be in writing, and be fairly enforced on all employees. You may want to consult an experienced employment law attorney for more guidance on how to design an effective hat policy and/or employee dress code.
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