Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom that is enshrined in the Federal Constitution. The choice of clothing is a means of expression like any other, especially when it involves a religious symbol such as a veil or a yarmulke.
In principle, the employer is required to respect and protect the employee's freedom of expression and choice of attire. This freedom may be limited by the employer's overriding interests and for reasons of safety at work. The employer is entitled to issue a dress code for the workplace.
Veil and ostentatious signs
An employee decides to convert and wear a veil at work. Tension between employees, customers or suppliers who do not accept this choice or a breach in the company's image of neutrality: the employer's fears regarding this situation are real.
In some situations, the employer may issue a dress code and require the employee not to wear any ostentatious sign in the workplace. In other cases, however, the employee's religious freedom will prevail over the employer's interests. A ban on wearing the veil will sometimes be illegal.
If the wearing of a religious symbol in the workplace causes conflicts between colleagues, the employer cannot simply dismiss the employee without taking other measures.
Proper dress is required: when employees are in contact with customers, suppliers or external partners, they represent the company's image. The employer has an overriding interest in ensuring that employees dress appropriately and do not show up with visible tattoos or piercings.
However, there are limits to the employer's power to instruct employees. He cannot go so far as to regulate the color of his employees' underwear, as a major bank tried to do at the time!
Safety at work
When summer arrives and the heat is intense, employees sometimes swap helmets and safety shoes for flip-flops and Bermuda shorts. It is imperative that the employer reacts. Otherwise, he/she risks being held liable in the event of an accident.
The employer has a duty to protect the personality of its employees and to prevent situations of sexual harassment. Clothing that is too short, tight or see-through is likely to embarrass employees or provoke unwelcome remarks or jokes. The balance between freedom of choice in dress and protection against sexual harassment is sometimes difficult to find.
Despite the relaxed atmosphere, a staff party is still a professional event. The employee should take this into account when choosing his or her attire for the evening. In addition, the employer must take measures to avoid incidents such as a drunken employee dancing half-naked on the table.