Limits on workplace dress code policies

Last August we posted an article on how a male worker in the UK decided to turn up for work in a dress, after previously having been reprimanded by the company for turning up in shorts, in mid-summer, and sent home to change. In that article, we reasoned that employers can establish dress codes but they must respect the constitutional rights of the employee in all cases.

In this regard, Madrid Labor Court number 29 handed down a judgment on December 30, 2015, which was recently upheld by the Labor Chamber of the Madrid High Court on June 17, 2017, in which it ruled to render ineffective the dress code policy regulated in the employee manual of a cell phone repair company.

The policy established an employee dress code, to be respected both on and off the premises. Specifically, it imposed the obligation to wear closed shoes, permitting only a few kinds of open shoe; skirts could not be shorter than the length of the lab coat; tight trousers or shorts were to be avoided, as well as low-waisted trousers that exposed the midriff; and lastly it stipulated that low-cut or sheer tops, strapless tops or crop tops should be avoided.

The Madrid High Court judgment concluded that the employer was entitled to impose some degree of uniformity on its employees, provided that it was based on objective and reasonable grounds proportionate to the end pursued.

The judgment stated that, in this case, the dress code far exceeded the employer’s management power regulated under article 20 of the Workers’ Statute, and ruled to render the dress code ineffective, to the extent that it does not regulate the uniformity of the workers for the pursuit of their activity, but rather seeks to prohibit the use of certain items of clothing, both on and off company premises.

Lastly, in this specific case, the court highlighted the fact that the majority of the company’s employees use lab coats or a uniform for their work, meaning that the clothing worn under the lab coat or uniform, where it cannot be seen, does not in any way affect the company’s image or its relationships with third parties.


David Gallego

Garrigues Labor and Employment Law Department