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As the summer inches ever closer, bar and restaurant staff across the country are likely going to start seeing their uniforms getting, well, smaller.

Or at least, the women will anyway. It’s a trend that’s persisted for years, where some restaurant managers demand that their female staff wear low-cut tops and short skirts, even though it’s a violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code (and likely a violation in other provinces as well). The issue has been getting a lot more attention ever since women started coming forward claiming they had been sent home from work or reprimanded for things like not wearing enough jewelry, refusing to wear a bikini top, or even being asked to change their hairstyle.

So what are your rights when it comes to workplace attire?

Workplaces are allowed to have dress codes. However, those dress codes can’t “undermine employees’ dignity” or discriminate based on things like age, sex, religion, ethnicity and so forth. What that means is that almost every time a dress code requires women to wear things that men or other people don’t, it could be illegal.

“Female employees should not be expected to meet more difficult requirements than male employees, and they should not be expected to dress in a sexualized way to attract clients,” the OHRC’s dress code policy reads. “An employer should be prepared to prove that any sex-based differences in the dress code are legitimately linked to the requirements of the job.”

In other words, dress codes in the workplace must be inclusive and affect all employees the same way. And since about 22 per cent of Canadians have their first job in a restaurant, it’s about time we knew what our rights are.

If you believe that you are being subjected to an unfair or discriminatory dress code at the workplace, you are encouraged to log it with the OHRC. If you live outside of Ontario, contact your province’s human rights council.

For more information on your rights, check out the video above.

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