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Many organizations have a dress code that employees are expected to uphold. Every workplace has slightly different standards, but there is usually a common theme: professional attire (nothing too revealing, casual or outlandish) and limitations on wild fashion statements, such as body piercings, tattoos and hairstyles. Employees in any industry should take care to convey the proper professional presence on the job and follow the dress code written by leadership.

Is it going too far, however, to require female employees to wear makeup to work?

That is exactly what happened to 24-year-old Melanie Stark, a former sales assistant at Harrods department store in London. Stark claims she was forced to quit her job because she refused to wear makeup, which contradicts the store’s 13-page dress code:

Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a ‘washing out’ effect).

Stark worked the HMV department (selling music, movies and games) in the store and had been an employee for five years when she quit last week. She said she had been described by one manager as one of the best employees in the store, but she was sent home twice and forced to work in the stock room another time because she preferred to go to work bare-faced.

From an article in The Guardian:

When she refused she was offered a makeup workshop and told, ‘You can see what you look like with makeup’, she said.

“I was appalled. It was insulting. Basically, it was implying it would be an improvement. I don’t understand how they think it is OK to say that.”, she said.

I know what I look like with makeup. I have used it, though never at work. But I just could not see how, in this day and age, Harrods could take away my right to choose whether to wear it or not.”

Harrods holds firm on its position, stating that all store employees are required to follow the dress code guidelines, which Stark was aware of when she began working there. Supporters say the store is within its rights to mandate certain standards for professional presence from its employees, particularly since workers deal directly with the public.

Critics argue that it is discriminatory to force female employees to wear makeup to work, when it has no bearing on their job performance. They point out that there is no equivalent standard for men, and the guideline is archaic and sexist.

What do you think? Is it acceptable for an organization to tell women they must wear makeup to work? Is it simply encouraging professional presence in employees or allowing discrimniatory policies?


Get tips on staying cool, while keeping your attire professional, for summer days.

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