Discrimination | Female employee asked to shave legs for work

    Female employee asked to shave legs for work

    Employers will always want employees to look smart and presentable whilst at work.

    Not only will this give off a good impression to customers and other business stakeholders but maintaining high standards among the workforce will transcend into an impressive company culture with a good work ethic. And this has huge benefits for the business. While employers may have grooming policies built into their employee handbook to ensure that employees look their best, one employee was asked to do something that she said left her feeling shocked.

    A female employee revealed that her male manager asked her to shave her hairy legs for work after claiming that it caused ‘hygiene issues’ and was ‘against company policy’ – The Daily Mail reported.

    The anonymous employee, who wrote under the name of BlinderDisco, explained on Reddit: “So I’m a 21 year old female. I feel like I should say these thing about myself because these are usually what people ask or say when they find out I rarely shave my legs.

    "You can barley see my leg hair, arm hair or even my god damn eyebrows. The only time I shave is when I’m dating a new guy in my life and I’ve been with my current BF for three years now. Also he doesn’t give a rats ass if I shave my legs. (sic)

    “So I work for a promotion company where I travel and work at event and festivals. But today I had to go into the office to grab some materials and my boss was there in his office so I stopped to say hi before I left out.

    “When I ducked in he awkwardly asked me if we could talk about something. I said sure and came in and he shut the door. He was so red and stuttering but finally he told me we needed to speak about hygiene. I was in literal shock. I was so embarrassed and asked him what he meant. My boss then proceeded to tell me that a few people complained I didn’t shave my legs and they said it went against company policy that I wasn’t being hygienic. I was even more shocked.

    “I told him I didn’t understand what that had to do with me shaving my legs and he was just absolutely quiet. I asked him if he shaved his legs and he still said nothing.

    "I then stood up and said if we were gonna keep talking about this I’d prefer HR to be there and he just told me that we didn’t need to discuss it any further."

    “Later today I just got an email from HR saying that they would like to set up a meeting for next week to talk further about the discussion that happened today. I’m freaking out and it’s making me so anxious. AITA for not shaving my legs for my job?

    “EDIT: So people giving my boss hate i understand but I’m not mad at him and don’t blame him. Im not sure but I feel like someone was in fact pressuring him to talk to me about this because he is a usually very chill and a nice guy who usually doesn’t even force dress code and stuff. But also I really have no clue what really brought this on all of a sudden since I’ve worked there 8 months with no incident.” (sic).

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    One Reddit user raised the question about whether male workers were expected do the same. AmethystPeachy wrote: “I won’t lie, if it was me I would make it a point not to shave my legs or even my armpits. Being hairy doesn’t mean you’re unhygienic. Anyone who wants to tell me that this is gross also then must admit that if a female has to do it, then a male does as well.


    Expecting female employees to wear makeup to work

    This isn’t the only incident that a female employee has been asked to alter her appearance at the request of her boss. Last year, HR Grapevine reported on an anonymous source seeking legal advice on employmentlawfirms.com about her employer who had introduced a new dress code and grooming policy. Her and her other female colleagues were then expected to wear makeup to work to comply with the new policy.

    The source wrote: “They say that women must wear makeup, including lipstick and mascara. Men are not allowed to wear makeup, but hey must cut their hair above the collar, while women have more leeway. Can they impose different rules on women and men? Can they require me to wear makeup?” (sic)

    In a previous HR Grapevine article exploring whether female employees can be forced to wear makeup to work, David Lewis, Head of Employment at Howells Solicitors, said that employers requiring anything of female employees, not similarly requiring the same of male employees, run the risk of breaching the Equality Act 2010.

    “On the face of it, it is lawful for a business to set a dress code; where there is legitimate reason to project a strong corporate image or to have requirements for a “clean look” however, if such a dress code is more prescriptive for female employees (including make-up requirements) then this might not be justifiable. When considering whether it was discriminatory, the policy should be considered as a whole, to see whether the overall effect was less favourable to one sex.”

    He added: “A “grooming code” which includes makeup requirements but also similar stipulations on say male facial hair, might be deemed sufficiently fair, however, unless wearing makeup is a genuine occupational requirement, (for instance modelling), it should be optional.”

    While HR may want to introduce grooming policies to make employees look smart and appear more professional, they need to be careful when rolling out rules that require something from one gender and not the other.

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    Comments (2)

    • Anna
      Tue, 10 Sep 2019 11:41am BST
      To be fair male employees don't usually have their hairy armpits or legs on show, they're covered up.
    • Greg
      Mon, 9 Sep 2019 1:35pm BST
      Haven't there been a number of equivalent cases where men were required to wear their hair short or shave their beard? This isn't a story about discrimination (though I know you would like it to be), it's a story about just how far an employer can go with requirements as to your appearance.

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