Does federal law prevent employers from making you wear a bra at work?
Susan Scafidi, the founder of the Fashion Law Institute headquartered at the Fordham University School of Law, told the New York Times that federal law “only requires that dress codes have gender parity with regard to burdens such as cost.” Image from Shutterstock.
Can your employer make you wear a bra at work? The New York Times addressed the issue in an “Ask Vanessa” column.
Susan Scafidi, the founder of the Fashion Law Institute headquartered at the Fordham University School of Law, told the New York Times that federal law “only requires that dress codes have gender parity with regard to burdens such as cost.”
The issue of whether bras amount to an unequal financial burden has not been addressed, according to the article.
Local laws may also apply. New York City, for example, requires gender neutrality. That means that a woman must wear a bra or hide or nipples at work, a man must do the same.
Scafidi also spoke with HuffPost about the issue in a 2021 article that cited the requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A dress code could require women to wear bras in theory, she said, but only if the code was was equally expensive or burdensome for men.
“A more modern dress code would probably say something like, ‘You have to cover the area between the collarbones and the knees, or the upper torso below the collarbones, and nipples may not be visible.’ Technically, that would apply to both men and women,” Scafidi said.
The New York Times also considered whether state and local laws govern women’s underwear. They don’t, but they do address what body parts can be visible. In Indiana, for example, the public indecency law says “a fully opaque covering” is required over any part of the nipple.
The HuffPost article went further in considering whether an employer could ban visible panty lines at work.
It’s “probably not a good idea for an employer to have a specific policy like that, as it’s clearly not gender-neutral,” said employment lawyer Jeffrey Kimmel. “If it fit into a more gender-neutral policy of dressing again in a professional business attire, it might pass muster.”