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I was wondering if this is generally normal and accepted as part of the dress code. My employer has no real formal dress code outside of not wearing jeans and t-shirts with print on them, but they do mandate that male employees all have short haircuts and female employees have at least shoulder-long hair.

I say mandate but I don't actually know if it's just something one of the owners says that everyone follows without trying their luck in resisting it, or if it's an actual mandate. As far as I know, nobody has ever been disciplined for it, although some people got told to get a haircut or grow their hair out.

Is a haircut generally considered part of the dress code and in the employer's purview to regulate?

These are all for non customer facing roles.

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    It should be noted that in Germany this would be an issue that a Betriebsrat - where one exists - has a legal right to be involved in, as it touches conduct and order in the workplace. (§87, Abs. 1, Punkt 1 of German Betriebsverfassungsgesetz) There is a prescribed way to resolve such an issue in the law, too. – I'm with Monica Apr 19 '17 at 14:14
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    I worked just the holiday help at UPS in the USA. They made me shave and cut my hair. – user15729 Apr 19 '17 at 15:39
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    So that they make sure you get discriminated if you have the cancer. – Joan Apr 19 '17 at 17:08
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    Are you a hair model company ? – Gabriel G. Apr 19 '17 at 18:38
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    Anecdote; my mum knew a guy who had a long conversation with a his barber, the outcome of which was a cut which was just about "stuffy office acceptable" on weekdays and some sort of a mohawk at weekends - depending on how the hair-goop was applied and brushed. – Grimm The Opiner Apr 20 '17 at 7:45
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they do mandate that male employees all have short haircuts and female employees have at least shoulder long hair.

At least in the cultural context of Germany (or most other European countries), that seems way over the line. I work in Germany, too, and I have never heard of such a dresscode - not even in directly customer-facing roles (such as sales or hospitality), let alone in a non-customer-facing role. Long hair for men is not that uncommon in Germany, and short hair for women even more so - note that for example Angela Merkel's hair does not reach her shoulders.

I say mandate but I don't actually know if it's just something the boss says that everyone follows without trying their luck in resisting it, or if it's an actual mandate.

Then the first step should probably be to ask about this. Try asking about it in a non-confrontational manner (at least at first, you can always escalate later). Something like "I heard the company has some rules about employee appearance. What are the rules about hairstyle?". Then you can decide how to continue.

Is a haircut generally considered part of the dress code and in the employer's purview to regulate?

In general yes - however there must be a balance between the interests of the employer and the employee. In general, the employer may only mandate a specific dress code if there is a legitimate interest - such as customers expecting a certain style. Rules for dress code have been upheld by courts, but for the hairstyle rules you describe, I doubt such an interest could be demonstrated. But I'm not a lawyer...

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    @Magisch In addition to this answer I would also add that it actually illegal to request this as an employer, see for example computerwoche.de/a/… as a source. Of course, suing your employer is not always an option, but this is a ridiculous request. Also, I would be interested to know in which industry this is, because even in conservative industries (banking, automobile, ...) I have never heard such a thing in Germany. – Reinstate Monica - dirkk Apr 18 '17 at 9:22
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    I don't know German law, but I would expect it follows the same principles as other European countries that dress codes and personal appearance can be prescribed if they are an essential requirement of the job - e.g. to be consistent with wearing a uniform; when working in the food processing industry; beards may interfere with essential safety equipment like breathing apparatus, etc. – alephzero Apr 18 '17 at 13:08
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    This seems like beyond this it would fall under sexual discrimination laws in many countries. Refusing to hire or punishing a woman who has the same hair style one would accept on a man or vice versa seems like it could be legally very sticky. – Vality Apr 18 '17 at 15:39
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    @Vality on the other hand, requiring an actor or actress to have specific hair style is perfectly normal and legal - so this depends on the role employee performs, and at least in certain roles "clients' pleasure" and "artistic vision" go without any doubt as valid reasons. – Mołot Apr 18 '17 at 16:25
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    @Vality Some companies ride that balance very loosely. For instance my sister worked at a pub where the waitresses were all attractive ladies (think like Hooters). The boss could tell them how they could paint their nails, do their hair, tattoos/piercings, and even if they needed to lose weight. This was all because they got hired as "models" instead of regular employees. All I'm saying is its not always jobs you'd expect such as actors, even jobs like waitresses can get away with it if the contracts worded correctly. – DasBeasto Apr 18 '17 at 19:15
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Dress codes can, and do include hair. Disney Corporation, for example, mandates that no employee have facial hair. Walt Disney permitted himself a mustache, but he was the only one with any facial hair in the company.

Length, color, and style may also come into play. A broad term such as "professional" cut and/or style may be mentioned. A more recent code for hair is that no colorings beyond the natural range of hair colors has recently appeared in dress codes due to blue, pink, canary yellow, and other unnatural colors becoming popular with the younger folk. Uneven haircuts, unusual haircuts such as getting one side shaved, et cetera may be banned.

If a company starts going into detail, it generally means that a problem has arisen in the past and they are having to address it.

Usually, there is some flexibility in non-customer facing roles, but the inverse is true. In an organization where you have a customer facing role, and they have an brand they are concerned in maintaining, the dress code for hair can go to specifics of length, color, style, and even get to the point of having a list of approved haircuts as opposed to guidelines.

If you are talking about the entertainment industry, there may even be written into your employment contract, a clause that states that any change of appearance, including a haircut, without express permission from your employer is grounds for dismissal. This is how Disney continues to enforce it's no-facial hair policy, as employees are CAST MEMBERS

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    Though not in Germany, firing someone due to his/her haircut would be big troubles for the employer. – Daniel Jour Apr 18 '17 at 17:14
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    Disney only changed their no-facial-hair rules in 2012. – stannius Apr 18 '17 at 18:24
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    Does this apply to Disney employees in Germany? – Philipp Apr 18 '17 at 23:28
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    The Disney policy only applied to theme park workers. They still do not allow visible tattoos, piercings other than ears, extreme hair colors (no pink, purple, etc) and beards have to be well groomed (no Duck Dynasty styling). – bluegreen Apr 19 '17 at 11:22
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    @Philipp I know those dress codes apply to the theme parks in the US (I've had friends that worked at both). I think I heard once that the French government had a problem with them, I don't know how that was resolved. Otherwise I'm not sure. Are there Disney employees in Germany? – bluegreen Apr 19 '17 at 11:29
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Dresscode usually only discusses hair for the most extreme examples, such as no shaving an offensive word into it, but this depends a lot on where you are from and the country you work for. This could be totally normal in your country, or it could actually be illegal (discrimination with different genders subjected to different rules).

Generally, other than the issue of gender specific rules, this is something that your company can create rules around if they wish, just most wouldn't create such strict rules if any. Keep in mind this almost certainly couldn't apply to any sort of religious cuts, such as beards, or a sikh man with long hair.

TL;DR In most countries it would not be unlawful to regulate haircuts, in my country (UK) it is unusual to be so strict however, but different rules for men and women may be illegal, and religious styles are probably exempt. Check the laws in your country of work

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    @pipe I agree somewhat, but OP asked if it was normal, to which there isn't really an answer without additional info hence the TL;DR. I will update to improve the phrasing regardless – AntlerFox Apr 18 '17 at 13:49
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    Haven't been on SE if you haven't heard the ever-present "It Depends". – SliderBlackrose Apr 18 '17 at 19:27
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    Do many workplaces have dress codes that specifically forbid shaving offensive words into hair? That seems oddly specific. – Zach Lipton Apr 18 '17 at 19:44
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    @ZachLipton And don't stuff beans up your nose! – Dan Henderson Apr 18 '17 at 20:46
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This answer will not help the OP I'm afraid but may assist others.

Here in the US. hair can play a part in the dress code. It is a firing offense in some cases, and in others just a "fix-it" type issue. Here are some valid examples, keep in mind that this is for the US.

  • Natural Hair colors only - This one is pretty common.
  • Not unkempt or unruly - Again common.
  • Not shaved - Less common, and exceptions usually abound (like baldness or medical issues)
  • Not too long - VERY VERY common in machine areas. This is a huge risk and in some ways (won't go into here) federal law.
  • No facial hair - Common in food prep, though there are hair nets and beard nets etc, so some companies allow for those, others state "no facial hair" or "short facial hair"
  • Broad statements like "Professional", "Hygienic", "Well kept" etc. - Extremely common but also very hard to enforce. Usually used as a "we don't care but could you make sure to wash it at least once every year or two" This is a very common practice and is usually a way to make sure you have some recourse should the person you just hired decide to stop bathing.

Over here (in the US) a company can make any policy they want regarding dress code so long as it doesn't violate any civil right or put any undue pressure on a "protected status". For example, I could say "blond only" as that would be legal. How ever I can't say "Natural blonds only" because it would add an issue of race into the mix. I could say "every one must have a full beard if they are male" but not "every one must have a full beard", because while some women can grow a beard, most can not. I could say "Natural colors only" but probably, could not get away with "Natural colors only, except no black." Again, because of race. I could certainly say "Everyone must dye their hair blue."

That being said, there would/could be legal issues. If the requirements put a "unfair" bias against a protected status, then there will be issues. And if the rules are too odd, then you get some bad press, and you better have a good reason.

For example if you ran a WWII museum you may say "no shaved heads". And when asked why, you could say that you didn't want to give the wrong impression. People would understand, and for the most part there wouldn't be an issue. At that same museum you could say "no hair over shoulder length." When asked why, if you said, "cause that's what I like." You may have an issue. At the machine shop next door, they may say "No hair over shoulder length" and when asked why say "safety reasons" and have no issues at all.

The point is this. In the US., laws that protect statuses exist but aside from those business are free to impose what ever normal or silly dress codes they like. These are not illegal, but odd dress codes may give you some bad press, and make it much harder to find workers. Specially skilled workers.

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    Would machine shops impose restrictions about the length of hairs on one's head, or merely require that anyone with hair beyond a certain length keep it secured completely within a hair net? – supercat Apr 18 '17 at 22:15
  • Seen both. Depends on the company and the risk. A simple drill press you can get away with a hair net or other "tie it backs" a machine that moves a lot of air around means that a hair net isn't going to cut it. There is no legal limit (IANAL) so long as it's imposed uniformly across all protected statuses. – coteyr Apr 19 '17 at 3:57
  • Slightly related but a good example businessmanagementdaily.com/37090/… – coteyr Apr 19 '17 at 4:00
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    Also slightly related: During WWII, Veronica Lake was urged to change her trademark long hair because of the number of women working in factories who copied her style and were getting their hair caught in machinery. – TripeHound Apr 19 '17 at 7:21
  • @coteyr: I would think a lot would depend upon the design of the headpiece. Even if an ordinary cosmetic hairnet would be insufficient, I would think a cap that completely encloses all hair, covered by a hard hat should be safe. An actor's skull cap might be insufficient even if it covers all the hair, because something like a hook that scrapes the "scalp" might expose and snag the hair underneath, but if a hook would penetrate a hard hat I think there would be other problems. – supercat Apr 19 '17 at 14:39
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In the UK this would fall foul of sex descrimination legislation, in that you can't have different rules for men and women. So if a woman can have a ponytail then so can the men.

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I can't comment on the laws and regulations in Germany. But to professionalism; if a company has a published dress code and requires you to sign acknowledgement of it as a condition of employment, I would expect to be held accountable if I did not do what I said I would. If a prospective employee does not believe they can adhere to the dress code, they would be advised to look for work elsewhere.

(I live in the US and both my current and former job had different dress code policies. The former being more strict to include hair length for both men and women.)

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    Signing and/or acknowledging any set of rules as a condition of employment does not render applicable laws moot. There really is a fair chance that this rule would not survive court (e.g. gender discrimination and freedom of personal expression). This is not the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. – Ghanima Apr 18 '17 at 19:34
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    I agree, this has no legal weight, as stated in my answer. But if an employee does not do what they say they will do, couldn't that be grounds for dismissal, casting doubt on their character? Or at the very least, per the OP, unprofessional? Example: You tell me to obtain the proper permits, I say I will. It is discovered afterwards I have not. I will likely lose my position now or after repeated infractions most certainly. – Jammin4CO Apr 18 '17 at 19:41
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    Per that reasoning you are making it possible to de facto enforce any illegal rule. Which does unfortunately not mean that standing up against those rules might not lead to some undesirable consequences (be they illegal too). – Ghanima Apr 18 '17 at 19:52
  • I see your point. If enacting a dress code policy is illegal in the jurisdiction, a legal case could be brought to remove the policy. But in the absence of a law that forbids it, I am asserting that professionalism demands an employee abide by what they promised by signature. As trivial as the agreement may be. Again, I am not speaking to laws in a country in which I do not reside, only to professionalism. – Jammin4CO Apr 18 '17 at 20:24
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    @ghanima But there are plenty of things that are illegal UNLESS you consent. If you sign a contract agreeing to work as a stripper, I doubt you'd be very successful in suing for sexual harassment because you were asked to dance naked. Rather different if you got a job as an accountant. – Jay Apr 18 '17 at 21:30
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No, a haircut is not considered part of the dress code. Consider men with long hair, tied in a pony tail. There is nothing wrong with that and employers should not restrict employment based on this feature. It's just like facial hair or beards. There is nothing wrong with them, and they are not part of the dress code.

A dress code only applies to clothes. Hair length, hair colour, tattoos and facial hair are part of a different behavioural code. Sometimes it is called body art, sometimes it is called appearance policy and sometimes it is called corporate policy. It is up to the employer, but it doesn't mean it is fair or morally right.

Note that from an employer's point of view, I might agree with weird earrings or offensive tattoos, but hair should never be an issue.

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    So the company where I worked that prevented people from dying their hair colour to an unnatural one (E.g. purple) wasn't a dress code? Good to know, so what was it? What do tattoos come under, they aren't dress either, so are they a body code? – Draken Apr 19 '17 at 11:33
  • They are not a dress code, they are part of a different behavioural code. Sometimes it is called body art, sometimes it is called appearance policy. – Ciprian Apr 19 '17 at 11:41
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    Someone else must have disagreed with your post. Don't get hung up on semantics of wording. The OP is asking if a company can regulate a haircut as part of policy. The company that I was referring to did have these haircut guidelines under dress code, so not everyone sees it your way – Draken Apr 19 '17 at 12:04
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    This answer is solely your opinion. You're welcome to insert your opinion into your answer, of course, but in this case the question is asking about broad societal agreements and you're answering with only your opinion. If you cite the way things are in the society and then also state your opinion about which of the differing views you agree with, fine, but this isn't the place to omit consideration of other points of view. – Wildcard Apr 19 '17 at 17:55
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    Downvoting because you only seem to be saying that OP should have used a different English term to describe the code. The question is more about whether German employers are allowed to do this at all, regardless of what the code is called. – RemcoGerlich Apr 19 '17 at 18:44

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