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Can Employers Require Women to Wear Makeup? 06-07-2006
- By Rita Risser, attorney at law

There is a saying in the law, "Bad facts make bad law," meaning that a case that goes to court with unusual facts can set a bad precedent. Well a recent case proves another adage, "Bad lawyers make bad law," because in this case, the lawyer representing the employee did not put on a full case, and as a result the employer won.

In 2000, Harrah's in Reno began a "Beverage Department Image Transformation" program. Part of this included The "Personal Best" program, which required new grooming and appearance standards for beverage servers. Some of these standards applied equally to both sexes, including the standard uniform of black pants, white shirt, black vest, and black bow tie. Other standards were differentiated on the basis of sex. Females were required to wear their hair "teased, curled or styled." Stockings were to be of "natural color consistent with employee's skin tone", and nail polish could only be "clear, white, pink or red." Men were prohibited from wearing makeup or nail polish, and were required to have short haircuts and neatly trimmed fingernails.

A woman who had been a bartender at Harrah's for almost 20 years refused to wear makeup, and was fired. She sued for sex discrimination. Unfortunately, her attorney did not submit any evidence of the cost of makeup or the amount of time it takes to put on makeup or style hair. Thus the Court was able to assume that the cost and time were minimal, and does not place a burden on women different from the burden placed on men.

The Court held that the employer could require women to wear makeup.

What you should do: Employers are always allowed to require employees to have a "professional appearance." To be safe, employers may have different standards for men and women only if the impact of the differences is comparable. For example, men and women can be required to wear different uniforms, because there is no gender difference in the amount of time it takes to put on the different uniforms.


Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.
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