Can they make me cover my Mohawk?

I got my hair cut into a short Mohawk. Someone found it offensive and HR is now telling me that I have to keep on my hat while on company premises. There is no place in the employee manual that states that I can’t have a Mohawk. Is what they’re doing legal?

Posted  07-24-2012

Ann Kiernan replies:

As a general rule, employers are free to enforce grooming standards and dress codes. Employees can be told to cover up tattoos, remove clothing containing offensive words or images, and conform to hair, make-up, and dress standards. However, employers must reasonably accommodate employees whose religious beliefs require that they have certain haircuts, cover their hair, or dress in a particular fashion. From what you write, it does not look like you had a religious reason for your haircut, so your employer can pretty much do what it likes about it.


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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.