Do Changing Times Call for Changing Dress Codes at Work?

Let’s face it, we are definitely a divided nation that’s on the verge of massive cultural shifts. Many cultural norms that are on the way out, include cars driven by people, fast food servers, and wired communication. On the way in, are self-driving vehicles, automation and artificial intelligence (AI), and Wi-Fi and 5G technology. There’s obviously those of us who are entrenched in centuries of puritanical protocols, and then we have the Millennials, who don’t seem to want to play by any rigid corporate paradigms.

Probably the biggest shift we’ve seen concerning individuals has been the influx and acceptance of tattoos and piercings. To a certain extent, we can probably add Generation Xers into this mix as well. But, the data we have now is pretty mind blowing when we see how many people are altering their bodies. It used to be that you’d expect to see your local corner store clerk or barista at the coffeehouse sporting ink and body bling. However, anymore it could be your doctor or accountant flashing a tat or a nose ring. A staggering 40 percent of people ages 26 to 40, and 36 percent of 18 to 25 years old have tattoos; while 22 percent of 26 to 40 year olds, and 30 percent of 18 to 25 year olds have at least one body piercing, according to the Pew Research Center.1

“The coming-of-age of Generation X and Millennials signals one of the most significant transfers of economic power in history, and that means recruiting and talent retention efforts are now fixed squarely on these two tech-savvy, laid-back, globally-minded generations,” wrote Sarah Landrum in her Forbes piece entitled “Are Millennial Employees Driving Casual Dress Codes?”2

Recent Grooming & Dress Codes Violations

There’s a societal shift happen in the workplace too, and the trend is one towards casual. Many companies, such as IBM and General Electric, have relaxed their dress codes to do away with formal attire that included dress shirts and dress pants to more business casual attire. Then there’s those that have gotten rid of dress codes completely. The following are some of the most recent newsworthy violations of dress codes:

  • Dreadlocks – A woman applying for a job with Catastrophe Management Solutions, and was later hired for the position, claimed she was unfairly denied the position. The job came with one stipulation – that she cut off her dreadlocks.3 She refused to lop off her dreads, and the company rescinded the offer. Her case was taken to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC brought the case to federal court, claiming that banning dreadlocks was racial discrimination. In a 3-to-0 decision, the federal court of appeals ruled to dismiss the case.


  • Plunging Necklines, Leggings & Revealing Skirts – Some believe Instagram and social media sensation Paige Spiranac’s tantalizing outfits provoked the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) to lay down the latest dress codes for its female golfers. The fans were none too pleased with the LPGA’s decision either. In a move in what appears to be an attempt to stave off female golfers from showing too much skin, the LPGA enacted the following codes to promote “a positive image” for the game:4
    • Plunging necklines NOT allowed
    • Racerback with mock or regular collar allowed/no collar, no racerback
    • Leggings Not allowed, unless under a skort or shorts
    • Length of skort, skirt, or shorts must be long enough so as to not show your bottom
    • Appropriate attire is required at all pro-am parties/dress jeans are permitted
    • Workout clothing Not allowed inside roped areas
    • Joggers Not allowed
    • A first-time offense carries a $1,000 fine, with fines doubling for each subsequent offense
  • Bikini Barista Stands – Several bikini clad baristas and the owner of a chain of coffee stands where they work filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle after the city of Everett passed two new dress code ordinances: one updates its lewd conduct statutes, while the other deals with the conduct and attire at the popular coffee stands.5 The following dress code ordinances come after complaints of sexual performances and acts of prostitution for tips:
    • The baristas (both male and female) will now be required to wear at a minimum a tank top, shorts, and skirt.
    • No more bikinis, lingerie, pasties, or G-strings.
    • First time violation offenders will be assessed a $250 fine against the owner. Second and subsequent violations will fine the establishment $500, and possibly a five-year probation license, or possible license revocation.

Railing Against Change to Preserve The Status Quo

It makes you wonder how many talented young professionals with fixed mindsets on comfortable attire or sporting a visible body accessory that they consider an extension of their personality get passed over for jobs they qualify for. There’s also plenty of companies still out there that keep the bar high to weed out what they consider undesirables, including: Geico Insurance, U.S. Postal Service, Starwood Hotels and Denny’s that refuse to hire anyone with a visible tattoo. Conversely, Allstate Insurance, Bank of America, and the ad agency Wieden-Kennedy have an open-door policy about hiring those with tattoos or piercings.

Contact a Denver Wrongful Termination Attorney at Lohf Shaiman Jacob

Have you been fired for having a visible tattoo or piercing, or dressing immodestly? If so, contact the Denver Wrongful Termination Attorney at Lohf Shaiman Jacobs. If you feel your workplace has an unfair or unlawful dress code policy, and you believe you were fired as a result of your appearance, our Denver wrongful termination attorney will fight aggressively for your rights, to get your job back, or the maximum compensation under the law for unlawfully firing you.

To discuss your case and learn how we can best serve you, call us at (303) 974-4411 or send us an email using the contact form on this page.


1“Visible Tattoos and Other Corporate No-Nos” published in Forbes, Oct. 2011.

2“Are Millennials Employees Driving Casual Dress Codes?” published in Forbes, June 2017.

3“Judge Rules Banning Dreadlocks in The Workplace is not Discrimination” published in Essence, Sept. 2016.

4“LPGA Accused of ‘slut-shaming’ over new women’s golf dress code” published in The Guardian, July 2017.

5“Editorial: No grounds for bikini baristas to sue Everett” published in HeraldNet, Sept. 2017.