Q. We have a company policy requiring male employees to keep their hair cut short. One worker says we can’t force him to cut his hair because we don’t tell female workers to do the same. Is this true?
A. At least one federal appellate court decision has held that requiring male (but not female) workers to keep their hair short does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In that case, workers argued that two U.S. Supreme Court decisions suggest that any employment policy that treats men and women differently violates Title VII.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling that the cases the worker relied on involved pension and health benefit programs that provided female and male workers with significantly different levels of benefits. Those Supreme Court decisions did not apply to hair cutting.
Grooming policies, the court noted, are more closely related to the employer’s choice of how to run a business than to equality of employment opportunity. Thus, the court upheld this company’s policy requiring that male (but not female) workers keep their hair cut short.