May an employer have a policy that requires male employees to keep their hair short?
Author: William Denham, Shortt & Nguyen, PC
Yes. An employer may adopt appearance and grooming policies to support its desired public image, including requiring male employees to keep their hair short.
However, certain state or local laws (e.g., California) may require that employers permit employees to appear or dress consistently with their gender identity or expression (e.g., a male employee who identifies as female may be allowed to wear their hair long since that meets the employer's policy).
In addition, laws have been passed at the state and local level (e.g., New York) that include discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles, such as braids and locks, as a form of race discrimination.
Any appearance and grooming requirements should be based on a legitimate business need (e.g., public image, safety) and should be applied to all employees uniformly.
Exceptions to the policy may need to be made in order to accommodate an employee's religious belief or observance (including religious dress and grooming practices), medical condition or disability (e.g., it may be a reasonable accommodation to allow a male employee to have long hair if there is a conflict between the policy and the employee's religious beliefs or practices.
Any and appearance and grooming policies should be clearly outlined and communicated to all employees and supervisors.