Subscribe Donate

Newsroom Type: In the News

Home | Newsroom | In the News

Weekly Checklist: It’s Time to Update Your Employee Appearance Policy

FP Weekly members receive a practical and cutting-edge checklist of issues to consider, action steps to take, and goals to accomplish to ensure you remain on the top of your game when it comes to workplace relations and employment law compliance. This week we are republishing a checklist of items to consider when revising your employee appearance policy and dress code – an especially timely topic given the news that the U.S. Senate has relaxed its traditional dress code.

Evolving Workplace Expectations and Standards

Pandemic prompted changes. Many workplaces have become more casual in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this movement. Employers and co-workers alike probably don’t mind when a cat, dog, or child occasionally makes an appearance in a Zoom call, and they accept that many employees on those calls are wearing sweatpants with their camera-ready dress shirt. Moreover, many employers that want workers to return to the office have offered a variety of incentives, including a relaxed dress code.

What does this mean for your appearance standards? These changes should motivate you to think about how to strike a balance between employee comfort and the standards of professionalism for your particular company culture and industry. Every workplace is different, but in general, you should consider the following questions:


Will you create a general policy simply requiring employees to look professional and well-groomed? Or do you want to be more specific?


Will you require customer-facing employees to dress more professionally or formally than those who only interact with co-workers — whether in person or on camera?


Will you create a separate policy for Zoom meetings that may be more relaxed than your in-person appearance policy?


Do you want to be more specific about what attire is unacceptable in the office or on Zoom? For example, are jeans and a t-shirt allowed? What about baseball caps, sleeveless shirts, or hooded sweatshirts? Just be sure to review such policies for compliance with the workplace laws discussed in more detail below.

Hairstyle equity. In addition to pandemic-related changes over the last few years, calls for social justice led many jurisdictions to pass laws combating workplace racial bias based on hairstyle. In fact, 19 states and many localities have passed a version of the CROWN Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on natural or protective hairstyles. Natural hair has not been treated with chemicals that alter color or texture — such as bleach or straightener. Protective hairstyles — such as braids, locs, twists, or bantu knots — tuck the ends of the hair away to protect from sun, heat, and other damage.

Racial discrimination based on hairstyles is a part of everyday life for many Black adults, according to a study by the CROWN Coalition — which was founded by Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change, and Western Center on Law and Poverty. Moreover, a 2019 Dove CROWN study found that Black women were 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair and 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy than their co-workers.

Read More

California lawmakers vote to ban mandatory evictions for arrested tenants

State lawmakers approved legislation late Wednesday that would bar mandatory evictions or exclusion for California tenants and their families based on criminal histories or brushes with law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 1418 combats local policies known as “crime-free housing” that can require landlords to evict tenants for arrests or prohibit landlords from renting to those with prior convictions. The bill would make many of these laws unenforceable, ending the practice in scores of communities.

The bill’s author, Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Hawthorne), said that its passage advances the state’s racial justice efforts by stopping communities from using crime-free housing laws to exclude or push out Black and Latino renters.

“We want to make sure we keep Black and brown people in their homes and that [crime-free housing rules] are not used as an excuse for gentrification,” McKinnor said.

The bill does not affect landlords’ ability to initiate nuisance-related evictions or screen tenants based on criminal histories of their own accord.

AB 1418 was inspired by a 2020 Times investigation that highlighted the proliferation of crime-free housing policies across California, especially in communities with growing Black and Latino populations. Times reporting found that local governments have approved the policies even when crime rates were stable or falling, while the number of Black or Latino residents was increasing. The Times determined that in some areas crime-free housing rules were enforced against Black, Latino and other tenants of color in far greater numbers than their share of the population.

Read More

California lawmakers strike landlord deal to cap security deposits, add eviction protections

California lawmakers brokered deals with landlords and Realtors to send Gov. Gavin Newsom bills to enhance protections for tenants — a victory for renters, in spite of some significant concessions.

The Legislature late Thursday approved Senate Bill 567 from Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, which would strengthen protections for renters facing evictions for renovations or landlord move-ins. Durazo pitched the measure as a way to prevent homelessness for those at risk of losing their housing.

The California Apartment Association and real estate groups strongly opposed SB 567, which builds on a 2019 measure that created a framework of eviction protections for tenants. But Durazo and tenant advocates were able to work out a last-minute deal with the apartments’ group that shifted their stance to neutral.

Lawmakers earlier in the week approved Assembly Bill 12 from Assemblyman Matt Haney, D-San Francisco, which would cap security deposits at one month’s rent. Haney also amended his bill to allow smaller landlords to ask for up to two months’ rent.

California renters have traditionally had little power in the Capitol, where groups representing Realtors and landlords hold significant sway.

Read More

California lawmakers approve bills including eviction protections and mental health care reform

The California Legislature voted Thursday to bolster eviction protections for renters and close a loophole in an existing law that has allowed landlords to circumvent the state’s rent cap.

The eviction reform bill was among hundreds approved before the end of a late legislative session, including giving striking workers unemployment benefits and reforms to the state’s mental health system.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Oct. 14 to act on the bills by signing them into law, rejecting them with a veto or allowing the bills to become law without his signature.

The rental bill by Democratic state Sen. María Elena Durazo would update a 2019 landmark law creating rules around evictions and establishing a rent cap at 5% plus the inflation rate, with a 10% maximum.

The governor was the architect of the 2019 law on renter protections, but he has not indicated whether he will sign the new eviction legislation, the bill sponsors said.

Under the 2019 law, landlords can evict tenants for “at fault” or “no fault” reasons. “At fault” reasons include failure to pay rent on time. Under “no fault” rules, landlords can terminate leases merely by saying they need to move into units, make repairs or take the units off the rental market.

Renters’ advocates said some landlords have exploited the “no fault” evictions to get around the state’s rent cap. They pointed to a case in Santa Clara County in which a landlord evicted tenants, citing the need to move in their relatives, but then re-listed the units at nearly double the price.

Under Durazo’s new bill, landlords moving into their unit or renting to family also must identify the people moving in, the rental must be occupied within three months of eviction and they must live in the unit for at least a year. Those who evict tenants to renovate properties must include copies of permits or contracts, among other details, when serving eviction notices.

Read More

US judge declines to issue TRO on government over SNAP benefits

A federal judge in Oakland decline Thursday to issue a temporary restraining order on the U.S. government to ensure that SNAP food benefits are authorized for October in case the government shuts down at the end of this month.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar heard arguments on an ex parte motion in Oakland from plaintiff’s counsel and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys. His order came hours later.

At stake “is the food security of 40 million low-income Americans, more than 10% of the country’s population,” stated Jodie Berger of the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles, in a memorandum in support of the ex parte motion for a TRO and order to show cause regarding a preliminary injunction.

“Unless this court intervenes by Sept. 15, may – indeed, most – of these people will no receive the October Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits that they rely on for their subsistence food needs,” Berger wrote.

Santa Clara Valley Healthcare病人可寻求医疗费用减免

此前,圣塔克拉拉谷医疗保健公司(Santa Clara Valley Healthcare)被指控向贫困患者收取本应免费获得的医疗费用的违规操作。该县昨天表示,已开始通知本应有资格享受 “慈善护理”(charity care,为低收入人群提供的减费或免费医疗服务)的病人。那些在未来几周内提出申请的人,其未付的医院账单将作废,或收到邮寄的退款支票。
对于参与此案的西部法律与贫困中心(Western Center on Law and Poverty)资深律师海伦-陈(Helen Tran)等病人权益倡导者来说,此次和解是一次重大胜利。
加州的所有急症护理医院都必须为收入低于一定标准(目前为联邦贫困线的 400%)的无保险者和部分有保险者提供慈善护理。即个人年收入约为 58000 元,四口之家年收入约为 120000 元,均符合要求。此外,还必须用患者的母语向他们介绍慈善医疗的选择。

About 43K California patients are receiving refunds and billing corrections

Approximately 43,000 former patients of Santa Clara Valley Healthcare, serving Santa Clara County in California, will soon receive notice of possible billing corrections and refunds.

The increased patient outreach efforts are part of the settlement of a lawsuit that alleged the county did not adequately inform three former patients about its previous hospital charity care and discount payment policies after they incurred bills ranging from $8,000 to $35,000 between 2013 and 2017. The bills were sent to collections, according to Santa Clara County.

At the time of their hospitalization, one petitioner was uninsured who was a single mother of two children and a full-time student; another was uninsured and spoke primarily Spanish; and the third was unemployed and unhoused.


As part of the settlement, the county will provide an opportunity for patients whose bills were sent to collections between October 28, 2018, and December 31, 2021, to have their bills re-reviewed for full or partial discounts.

People who receive this notice will have 65 days to complete and return a form indicating their interest to apply. They’ll then have an additional 150 days to complete their application by submitting documents to verify their information.

Read More

Santa Clara Valley Healthcare patients can seek debt relief

Tens of thousands of people treated at Santa Clara County-owned hospitals may now qualify to have their medical debt erased.

This comes in the wake of a June lawsuit settlement that accused Santa Clara Valley Healthcare of charging needy patients for care they should have received for free.

The county said yesterday it has begun notifying patients who should have been eligible for “charity care,” reduced-cost or free medical services for low-income people. Those who apply in the next several weeks could see their outstanding hospital bills voided, have court judgements corrected and even receive refund checks in the mail.

The settlement is a major win for patient advocates like Helen Tran, a senior attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty who worked on the case.

“It sends a really important message to hospitals statewide—that they should take their charity care obligations seriously,” she told San José Spotlight. “The county has done so.”

All acute care hospitals in California must offer charity care to anyone uninsured, and many people with insurance, who earn below a certain threshold—currently 400% of the federal poverty level. That’s about $58,000 annually for an individual and $120,000 for a family of four. Patients must also be told about charity care options in their native language.

Read More

Getting Answers: Santa Clara Refunds

If you are a former patient at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, you may be owed some cash. The hospital has started notifying more than 40,000 former patients about refunds due to incorrect billing. It is part of a settlement involving patients who were sent to collections for charges that they never should have been asked to pay. Joining us live now to discuss the settlement is Helen Tran, senior attorney with Western Center on Law and Poverty, which filed the suit back in 2019.


43,000 Santa Clara Valley Healthcare patients possibly entitled to refunds

Santa Clara Valley Healthcare is notifying 43,000 former patients that they may be eligible for refunds or billing corrections because the medical facility did not fulfill its charity care obligations.

This action stems from a settlement of a lawsuit filed in 2019, alleging that the public hospital system failed to apprise three former patients of its charity care program or discounted payment policies. The plaintiffs said that they received bills ranging from $8,000 to $35,000 between 2013 and 2017. Those bills were subsequently sent to collections.

The revelation of the settlement was initially reported by KFF Health News.

Among the plaintiffs was a single mother of two, who was a full-time student and uninsured. Another was an unhoused resident.

In accordance with California’s Hospital Fair Pricing Policies law, people unable to afford their medical expenses can qualify for partial or complete bill forgiveness through charity care. Eligibility for charity care extends to patients regardless of their insurance or immigration status.

Read More