Q. The company I work for has had an employee dress code since the company was incorporated. Recently, a male employee began coming to work dressed as a woman. His supervisor asked me if this violates the dress code. If so, can the supervisor require the male employee to dress according to the dress code for males and discipline him if he doesn’t?
A. Probably not. Recently the NJLAD was amended to include “gender identity and expression” as a protected category, making any discrimination or harassment on this basis illegal. “Gender identity and expression” is defined as having or being perceived as having a gender-related identity or expression, whether or not stereotypically associated with a person’s assigned sex at birth. This covers transsexuals, transvestites and individuals of ambiguous gender.
The law makes clear that, while employers may maintain dress standards, they must allow employees to appear, groom themselves and dress consistently with their gender identity or expression.
Employers should review and update employment policies, particularly equal employment opportunity and harassment policies to include “gender identity or expression” as a protected category. Anti-harassment training should include this category as well.