Headscarves are an essential part of female dress for several religions and cultures. Whether you are a devout follower of a religion that prizes female modesty or you are an active participant in a culture where headscarves are common, you have a legal right to wear your headscarf at work under most California employers. Dress codes and managers that prohibit or attempt to prohibit the wearing of headscarves can be proven unlawful through a few different legal approaches.

Today, we’re here to talk about how to defend your right to wear a headscarf at work and how to prove if your employer is unlawfully discriminating against you for your religion, culture, or gender.

Federal Freedom of Religious Expression

It is federal law according to the EEOC that employees have a right to groom themselves and wear specific garments in accordance with their religious traditions. Despite the fact that employers try to get around this law in a number of different ways to maintain their preferred workforce “look” or to subtly enforce cultural bias, ultimately the law is on your side. Remember this any time an employer tries to make you remove your headscarf or expresses that your options will be limited if you insist on maintaining your religious or cultural modesty.

According to the EEOC, employees must be allowed to wear or display religious items of clothing and adornment, and specific grooming requirements provided it does not reduce the safety of the workplace. We’ll go into safety exceptions later.

Dress Code vs Manager Policies

First and foremost, check the actual written dress code in the employee handbook or your company’s equivalent. If headscarves, hats, or hairstyles are not mentioned in a way that would ban wearing a headscarf, your manager is just being a jerk. Many dress code conflicts have been discovered to be managers rather than actual company policy, and only company policy can legally be enforced. If headscarves are not mentioned or alluded to in the handbook, you may be able to report your discriminatory manager to HR for asking you to remove your headscarf at work. Your company may step in and defend your rights, as they had no intention as an organization to deny them.

“Look Policies” Must be Lenient

The biggest clash with headscarves has come in hospitality and other customer-facing positions where employees are expected to maintain the ‘brand look’ while on the job. Non-religious employees and those with religions that have no dress requirements must follow the company’s dress code for hair style, head coverings (hats or no hats), and so on. However; headscarves, yarmulkes, Rastafarian dreadlocks, and other religious head stylings must be respected in the workplace despite the company’s “Look Policy” for most staff.

On an interesting note: Your employer can tell you what color of headscarf to wear to match your uniform. They might even be able to dictate the material or sheen of your headscarf. A very progressively restrictive company might even provide you with a company-approved headscarf for work hours. But they cannot force you to take it off or wear something else on your head that defies your religious tenets.

Gender Discriminating Dress Codes

Then there are also workplaces that handle the headscarf issue very badly be banning them as a female-only dress code policy. Because headscarves are connected to some tender current political issues, prejudiced employers may try to put a blanket ban on headscarves in the women’s side of the dress code while leaving things like yarmulkes for males permitted because it does not connect to their personal biases.

In this case, you can call to either unfair religious rules or to gender discrimination. Keeping women from respecting their religious tenets while allowing men to maintain their traditions is uniquely unfair.

Discrimination Through Position

Finally, watch out for policies that allow headscarves, but try to keep them “out of sight“. Several hotels have been cited as allowing female employees to wear headscarves, but limiting their opportunities away from the front desk or customer-facing positions. This often means relegating religious women to menial behind-the-scenes labor which is yet another form of religious workplace discrimination.\

The Safety Exception

There is exactly one exception to freedom of religious dress in the workplace: Safety. Like long loose hair, headscarves do pose a certain risk when working in some environments. Particularly those involving machinery or face-gear. This is applied across the board for men and women (positions that requirement to be clean-shaven for safety, as an example) and is something that those with religious adornment must deal with. However, there may be acceptable accommodations you and your employer can agree on. For example, you may be able to wear an under-scarf (a tight sleeve that covers your head and neck below a headscarf) to maintain your religious modesty while working in hazardous environments.

Is your workplace asking you to remove your headscarf while on the job or while working with customers? If so, they are most likely violating more than one federal law determined by the EEOC. Here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we specialize in helping women and men just like you who want to maintain their religious freedom in the workplace. You shouldn’t have to deal with prejudiced bosses or unreasonable “look policy” dress codes and we can help.

Contact us today to find out more about how legal action can force an employer to shape up and provide fair policies for men and women of all religious and cultural backgrounds. Our legal team can help you get justice and fair policies for yourself and for all past, present, and future colleagues who will face the same challenges in your workplace.

Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986