Banning Tank Tops In Williamsburg Is Actually Illegal

Image via Vos Iz Neias
Image via Vos Iz Neias

After stirring up controversy last summer with a bunch of signs demanding customers not enter their businesses wearing “sleeveless” tops or anything with a “low cut neckline,” seven Orthodox-run stores in Brooklyn are fighting against fines from the city’s Commission of Human Rights, which charges that the signs (which have been taken down in the interim) are specifically discriminatory towards women. Well, yes.

The Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council has countered that the harsh signs were just a suggestion, and a spokesman said, “From our understanding of the signs, they express a wish, not a condition of service, similar to the dress code of the Court Room where this case will be heard.”

But Commission on Human Rights Deputy Commissioner Clifford Mulqueen explains, “There’s nothing wrong with a dress code. What the law says is that you can’t advertise in a way that might make one protected group of individuals uncomfortable. When you speak about sleeveless shirts or low-cut necklines you’re specifically referring to women’s dress, and that may make women feel unconformable and unwelcome.” He added that, unlike men who may be required to wear, say, dinner jackets at certain businesses, women (rightly) qualify as a “legally protected class” and each store that posted such dress requirements will be facing a $5,000 fine. “Everyone knows what the rules are and they did this knowing what the rules were,” he said. So, may not really be the weather for it anymore, but seems like an opportune moment to wander in and out of these stores wearing as little as possible? Seems only fair, and anyway, the signs were just a “suggestion,” right?

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.


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