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Worker Defies 'Unofficial' Dress Code By Wearing Pants To Work Instead Of A Long Skirt & Gets Called Into Boss's Office

Photo: VideoFlow / Shutterstock
Woman wearing a skirt at work

In the 1950s and 1960s women were expected to wear knee-length skirts to work. But by the time the 1970s rolled around, the fight for equality at work and the liberation of women was in full swing and the power suit, complete with pants, a blouse, and a fitted blazer grew in popularity.

That’s why it was so shocking when one woman took to Reddit's r/legaladvice subreddit to share her story about being forced to wear a skirt to work every day and shamed when she didn’t.

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Her employer demands all women wear skirts to work.

Photo: Reddit

She started by explaining that the company she worked for was owned by Mennonites, members of the Protestant church. At work, she believes the norm of women wearing skirts and men wearing pants could be attributed to the conservative traditions of the religious group. Even so, there is no ‘official’ dress code, but the cultural norms are strictly enforced.

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The lack of autonomy over what she wears had been bothering the woman lately and according to her, “I've worn mid-calf to floor length skirts (the dress code) the entirety of my time working there. I've had issues with them for a long time.”

The skirts have gotten in the way, falling beneath her feet at times, creating a tripping hazard, and she is constantly squatting to pick up things at work. Every woman knows how awkward and uncomfortable bending or kneeling can get when you have a dress or skirt on. Not to mention, the Redditor believes she is much more productive at work when wearing pants.

Lately, she had noticed that seasonal employees were coming onto the team, but since they work in the back and are not customer-facing, are allowed to wear pants. That inspired her to build up the courage to show up at work wearing pants for the first time after a year of adhering to the unofficial dress code.

The day before sharing her story, she walked onto the job with a pair of pants on and things did not go well. She said, “Within the first 30 minutes of clocking in, I already got the talk of shame from my pants-wearing male manager. He told me that the business [is] going for a certain 'image' and that people (not customers, coworkers) are complaining about my pants.”

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She complied and changed into her customary workwear, a skirt, but felt like everyone was whispering about her for the rest of the day. She was embarrassed and ashamed of how she had been treated and turned to the subreddit to see if forcing women to wear dresses or skirts is legal. She feels singled out and though she enjoys her job, can’t bear the tension in the air.

Dress codes are a complicated matter. One reader commented, “Dress codes that are different for men and women aren't inherently illegal unless they create a disproportionate burden on one gender over another. A dress code requiring men to wear suits and ties while women must wear formal dresses would be legal, while a dress code requiring women to wear makeup but not requiring men to do anything would be illegal.”

That person is absolutely right. Dress codes that treat men and women disparately are prohibited by Title VII f the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As a matter of fact, any policies that discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin are out of the question for employers. With that said, employers do have the right to implement uniforms and dress codes as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of or target a specific group.

RELATED: Schoolgirls Left In Tears By Dress Code That Requires Male Teachers To Inspect The Lengths Of Their Skirts

NyRee Ausler is a writer and author from Seattle. She covers issues navigating the workplace using the experience garnered over two decades of working in Human Resources & Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.