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Do you have to follow a dress code?

Your employer gives you a dress code, and you almost feel like it's illegal. Don't you have the freedom to express yourself? Doesn't telling you what you can and cannot wear infringe on your rights?

First off, you certainly do have a right to wear anything you want, but that doesn't mean there are no consequences. If you choose to ignore the dress code, you could get fired. That doesn't infringe on your rights, but it does end your career. That's your choice.

Typically, your employer can make you wear certain things to create a professional business environment, to identify you as a member of the company and to keep you or others safe on the job. You may have a distinct business uniform with a logo or you may just have a loose set of guidelines that you have to follow. Either way, that's not illegal.

There is one exception: The dress code has to be fair to all employees. If it discriminates against some of them -- women, for instance, or people with a specific religious background -- then that is illegal. Standards have to be relatively equal. If employees want to wear certain things for religious reasons, employers have to let them do so unless it's an extreme, rare situation where that clothing cannot be permitted.

Dress codes that discriminate certainly can infringe on your rights, especially when employers use them as a way to force certain workers out or to keep from hiring them. If this happens to you, make sure you know what legal steps you can take to protect yourself.

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