HR Strange But True!
September 28, 2006

A woman fired for refusing to wear a blazer at work to cover up her "boobs" can proceed with her sex discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, a Washington state appellate court has ruled.

Michele Rohaly was fired from her job as a saleswoman for Rainbow Playground Depot for refusing to follow the company's dress code requiring female employees to wear navy blue blazers. She sued the company, alleging sex discrimination and retaliation.

The trial court granted Rainbow Playground's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the dress code was not unduly burdensome on female employees because the code also required male employees to buy certain types of clothing, such as denim shirts with the company logo, and therefore did not impose unequal burdens on one sex.

The Washington Court of Appeals agreed that the company's dress code was not facially discriminatory, but found there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether the policy treated female employees differently in the terms and conditions of their employment than similarly situated male employees, and whether Rohaly was discriminated against because of her sex.

The panel stated that remarks allegedly made by Rohaly's manager could be used as evidence that Rohaly's gender played a role in her firing. In particular, the panel cited testimony from Rohaly's brother that Rohaly's manager had said she wanted women to wear blazers to "cover up their boobs," and that "girls have to wear a blazer so their boobs don't hang out."

Rohaly testified that her manager had told her: "I feel like women should wear blazers because this is a man's world and to keep up with men, women have to be one up on them."

Source: Rohaly v. Rainbow Playground inc., Wash. Ct. App., No. 56478-1-I, unpublished opinion 8/28/06

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