Workplace Dress Codes and Transgender and Non-Binary Employees

If an employer has a dress code, it should modify it to avoid gender stereotypes and enforce it consistently. Requiring men to wear pant suits and women to wear skirts or dresses, is based on gender stereotypes. Alternatively, codes that require attire professionally appropriate to the office or unit in which an employee works and that apply to all employees in that office or unit are gender-neutral.

Examples of gender-neutral dress codes include:

  • Employees may wear earrings no more than two inches in length or diameter.

  • Employees must wear a suit to meetings with clients.

  • Employees with hair below the chin must wear their hair tied back while working with or on the floor with machinery.

The intention of a dress code policy is to ensure employees embody the company’s brand and/or professional image. Providing an expectation of professional dress when conducting company business, it can be helpful to enumerate what type of dress is not appropriate in the workplace.


  • No sweatpants, shorts or athletic apparel

  • No excessively dirty or worn clothing

  • No slip-on shoes or sandals

  • No Jewelry that can cause a safety hazard

Generally speaking, employers have a right to establish employee dress and grooming guidelines during work hours if they are reasonable and serve a legitimate business purpose. Such purposes include:

  • Maintaining a brand or job specific image with customers and competitors,

  • Safety, such as requiring employees to wear closed-toe shoes, goggles or gloves, and

  • Visibility, such as requiring employees to wear uniforms so that they are clearly recognizable to the public (e.g.: firefighters).

In the vast majority of cases, employers do not have the right to monitor or regulate employees' off-the-job conduct; dress codes should not apply to activities outside of work. While some transgender employees may have a different gender expression outside of work — including employees considering or beginning the process of transitioning genders — the employer may neither inquire about such activity nor take adverse action against such an employee.