Circuit Judge Royce Taylor plans to lay out a specific dress code in a forthcoming newsletter for the Rutherford and Cannon County Bar Association to deter women from wearing “revealing blouses, miniskirts and, in at least one instance, sweatpants,” The Tennessean reported.
Taylor, who became a judge in 1998 and is a retired Naval Chaplain, told the newspaper that the subject came up at a recent meeting of the local Bar and Bench Committee last month.
“All you have to do is go to church and see what people used to wear — hats, gloves, long dresses — have long been gone away with,” Taylor told The Tennessean. “But I found that county judges here weren’t holding women to the same standard as men.”
“I have advised some women attorneys that a jacket with sleeves below the elbow is appropriate or a professional dress equivalent,” he wrote in the upcoming newsletter. “Your personal appearance in court is a reflection upon the entire legal profession.” Though Taylor’s letter is set to appear in the bar association’s upcoming newsletter, he appears to have no leadership position with the group.
Attorney Lisa Eischeid defended Taylor’s perspective, telling the newspaper, “Someone needs to tell women that sundresses are not proper in the courtroom.”
Joanna Grossman, law professor at Hofstra University, addressed dress codes and sex discrimination in a 2009 column for FindLaw. “To begin, Title VII plainly prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. Other than for a very small subset of hiring decisions, the statute contains no defenses to a claim of facial discrimination — that is, discrimination that is pursuant to a policy that expressly differentiates persons based on sex. And it contains no exception for dress codes,” she wrote.
“Yet courts, in case after case, have upheld the right of employers to maintain sex-specific dress and grooming codes. … The decisions permitting employers to maintain such policies plainly violate Title VII’s ban on sex-based employment policies. But courts simply mouth platitudes about the employer’s prerogative to run its business as it sees fit, or about society’s generally accepted principles of grooming, while giving license to these discriminatory policies.”
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Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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