Historically, most courts have sustained employer-imposed, gender-based dress codes. Two well-established exceptions to the rule exist for dress codes that either (1) objectify or sexualize women or (2) allow for flexibility of standards for male employees' appearance but require stricter rules for women. A third, still-evolving exception has recently developed regarding challenges to dress codes by transgender litigants. Despite this recent progress, however, the classical gender-based dress code -- requiring women to conform to feminine stereotypes and men to conform to masculine stereotypes -- has, up to the present, been sustained by a majority of the courts time and again. The Author discusses two cases that offer insights as to why dress codes generally survive challenges, while also portending strategies for reversing this longstanding trend.
14 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol'y 243 (2007)