CARROLL v. TALMAN FED. SAV. & LOAN ASS'N OF CHICAGO No. 76 C 1729.
448 F.Supp. 79 (1978)
Mary M. CARROLL, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. TALMAN FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION OF CHICAGO, Defendant.
United States District Court, N. D. Illinois, E. D.
February 28, 1978.
Robert A. Deane, Stephen L. Ruff, Ruff & Grotefeld, Ltd., Chicago, Ill., for defendant.
FLAUM, District Judge:
The instant lawsuit is brought as a class action for declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief on behalf of all female employees of defendant Talman Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago [Talman] who have been limited in their choice of dress which they are allowed to wear at work. Suit is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Several motions are presently pending before the court. Both parties move for summary judgment. Plaintiff also moves for certification of a class of employees who are required to conform to the allegedly discriminatory dress code. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c). Since the court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment it does not reach the class issue. After a brief outline of the facts which are not in dispute, the sole legal issue presented by this case shall be discussed.
The defendant, Talman, is a savings and loan association with its main office located in Chicago. The association, which has eight branch offices, employs approximately 800 persons. Plaintiff challenges defendant's policy that requires females to wear certain kinds of dress. Although she characterizes this policy as a "uniform policy" it is readily apparent that female employees have far more discretion than they would if they were required to wear uniforms. Under the policy, females are permitted to wear five basic items in any combination they choose. Females must wear either a color coordinated skirt or slacks and either a jacket, tunic or vest. The skirt can be pleated, gored, or straight. The tunic can be belted or unbelted. Choice of blouses, sweaters and hosiery is subject to the discretion of the female employees. These "career ensembles" are required to be worn every business day except the last Tuesday of every month and a week in August and the week between December 25 and January 1. These two weeks are called glamour days and female employees are required to wear "appropriate business attire" at those times.
Until March, 1974 defendant paid half the cost of the uniform while the employee was required to pay the other half. Since March, 1974 defendant has paid the cost of one ensemble for each employee. However, the defendant treats the delivery of such uniforms as income and withholds the amount from each woman's pay based upon the value of the uniform. If employees wish additional items, they must purchase them at their own expense. Of a total of 675 teller, office and managerial personnel, 525 are women who must wear the ensembles. This group includes a senior vice-president and treasurer of defendant.
The men are not required to wear a career ensemble of any kind. From approximately 1958 to 1969, defendant supplied suits to its male tellers and required that they be worn during work. The program was discontinued at the request of the male tellers. The defendant's dress code policy currently requires that men wear business suits or a combination of a business-type sport jacket and pants. Ties are also required to be worn. Men receive no dispensation from this requirement on the last Tuesday of each month or during the so-called glamour days. The dress code does not further define what a business suit or business-type sport coat is.
The branch or home office manager determines what is or is not appropriate business attire on a strictly ad hoc basis. The manager determines the appropriateness of the females' discretionary choices in the same manner. Defendant's personnel manager testified at his disposition that certain managers had permitted males to wear "leisure" type suits as long as they wore ties.
Plaintiff was hired March 5, 1973 as a part-time employee. From 1973 to 1976,
The case before the court appears to be one of first impression. The parties have not cited to the court, nor has the court in its own research discovered a case which is factually apposite. The precise issue before the court is whether a dress code which is applicable to both men and women but is more restrictive as to women violates Title VII. In considering such a question, the court is guided by the general precept that Title VII must be construed liberally to achieve its objectives. See Reeb v. Economic Opportunity Atlanta, Inc.,
Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc.,
Pointing to such language in Sprogis and other cases which are factually inapposite, plaintiff argues that Title VII mandates the elimination of any terms or conditions of employment which treat similarly situated male and female employees differently. Specifically, plaintiff argues defendant by its dress codes has isolated one group on the basis of sex. The direct consequence of this policy is to establish different terms and conditions of employment for men and women. Defendant counters that employer specifications requiring different modes of dress and grooming for men and women do not constitute sex discrimination. Inasmuch as the defendant's dress code does not significantly impair employment opportunities or benefits of either sex, defendant argues, it is not cognizable under Title VII even though such code makes different requirements on the basis of sex.
At the outset it must be noted that there is no suggestion in the present case that the differing standard is a mere pretext for limiting employment to one sex. A claim that a dress code was created and enforced for such a purpose would state a claim under Title VII. See Earwood v. Continental Southeastern Lines, Inc.,
Although there are no cases factually apposite, the general rule appears settled that distinctions based on sex in dress codes do not violate Title VII. "It is clear that regulations promulgated by employers which require male employees to conform to different grooming and dress standards than female employees is not sex discrimination within meaning of Title VII." Fountain v. Safeway Stores, Inc.,
Willingham v. Macon Telegraph Publishing Co., 507 F.2d at 1091 [emphasis in the original]. See also Earwood v. Continental Southeastern Lines, Inc., 539 F.2d at 1351.
Plaintiff attempts to distinguish the above cases by arguing that in most of them there was not a complete relationship between gender and the regulation and that therefore there was no gender-based discrimination. For example, in the so-called hair cases there are two classes: one class consists of long-haired males; the second, females who are permitted to have long hair and short-haired males. Not all the cases have such factual distinctions. In Fountain, for example, the male plaintiff was required to wear a tie. This requirement applied exclusively to males as a class. There was a complete relationship between gender and the regulation. The court ruled there was no violation. In Jerrell v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc.,
Plaintiff also cites a series of cases where discrimination on the basis of sex was found violative of the Act. In Sprogis v. United Air Lines, Inc.,
Earwood v. Continental Southeastern Lines, Inc., 539 F.2d at 1351. Clearly, wearing a particular mode of clothing does not amount to a fundamental right. Although the right to wear a certain mode of dress is clearly constitutionally protected, such protection does not normally extend to deprivations by private employers. Id. at 1351.
Defendant's requirements do not prevent employment opportunity. The court, therefore, holds there is no Title VII violation where an employer discharges an employee who refused to abide by dress regulations which are in fact applicable to both sexes but as to one sex imposes a more defined standard of uniformity. Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted and this case is dismissed. Judgment is entered for the defendant.
It is so ordered.
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