Can my employer tell me what to wear at work?
Question & AnswerCan my employer tell me what to wear at work?
2. Talk to your employer about your human rights
Your employer might not know that they are discriminating against you. They might not know they can’t ask you to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way. They might not know that your religious requirements make it hard to follow the dress code or wear a uniform.
You can write a letter to your employer or human resources department. Your letter can include:
- details about the dress code and why you think it does not follow the rules of the Human Rights Code
- how your religion, or other characteristic, makes it impossible to follow the dress code
- how you would like to be accommodated
- the Ontario Human Rights Commission infographics and policy statement
Your employer might want to talk to you about your concerns. Think about what suggestions you can give to your employer to help find a solution that works for both of you. You have to co-operate with your employer in trying to find and agree on what is appropriate for them to do to you. What you agree to might not be the same as what you asked for.
Accommodation can be different for different people. In each case it depends on what you need. For example, your employer might allow you to:
- wear a hijab or other religious head covering
- wear your religious clothing under your uniform
- wear a long-sleeved shirt under a uniform t-shirt
- move to a job in the company where the clothing rule does not apply
- offer different clothing options and allow you to choose without pressure
Take notes about any discussions you have with your employer. It’s best to make the notes when things happen while you still remember them well. This is important because, as time passes, people can forget details of events. Emailing the notes to yourself can help to prove the date that you made the notes.
And keep copies of any written communications with your employer, like emails, letters, and text messages.
You can also ask a support person, such as a co-worker, to come with you when you talk to your employer. That person can be a witness to what happened or what was said.
Your employer cannot threaten or punish you for talking about your human rights.
You might want to get legal advice before speaking to your employer. You can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information.