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Some Modest Proposals for Challenging Established Dress Code Jurisprudence

13 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2011 Last revised: 28 Dec 2011

Jennifer Levi

Western New England University School of Law

Date Written: December 15, 2007

Abstract

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.

Keywords: dress code, transgender person, gender, sexuality and the law

Suggested Citation

Levi, Jennifer, Some Modest Proposals for Challenging Established Dress Code Jurisprudence (December 15, 2007). Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 14, p. 243, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1972920

Jennifer Levi (Contact Author)

Western New England University School of Law ( email )

1215 Wilbraham Road
Springfield, MA 01119
United States

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