Male employee allowed to dress like a woman at work?

I have a male employee who likes to dress like a female and it causes a lot of customers to complain. He wears makeup, pink lipstick, and brings a purse to work. He says that if I allow females to do so I must allow him to. Is he correct?

Posted  10-07-2013

Steve Duggan replies:

No, he is not correct, at least not for the reason he stated. Employers can require business attire that conforms to the employee’s gender, and can even require different work uniforms for different genders, so long as it is reasonable and complies generally with acceptable societal norms. This has generally been held not to be gender discrimination. Therefore, a man does not have a right to dress like a woman, just because women are allowed to do so, and vice versa. In some states in which “gender identity” is a protected characteristic under its laws, a man would have a right to dress like a woman if her predominant gender identity were as a woman. However, neither federal law nor state law where your employee works provides this protection, so it does not apply to him.

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.


About the Author:

Steve Duggan graduated from the Law School at the University of Notre Dame while on active duty in the Air Force. He has extensive experience representing management litigating cases of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment. Steve also has experience in all phases of administrative litigation of unfair labor practice charges, and class and individual complaints of employment discrimination. He has been an instructor of seminars for supervisors and managers on labor management relations and other personnel issues, and for lawyers in basic and advanced trial advocacy courses. Steve came on board with Fair Measures in 1998.