Column: Time for an end to sexist dress codes

It’s about time the skimpy outfits that have come to typify uniforms for female food service workers have  come under  a bit of public scrutiny.

On March 8 — International Women’s Day — the Ontario Human Rights Commission called for an end to sexualized workplace dress codes that discriminate against women.

Take a moment and you’ll likely have no trouble thinking of any number of places where male employees walk around in dress pants and collared shirts, while the women all seem to be wearing low-cut tops and skirts that could double as wide belts in an emergency.

Far from the only (or even the worst) offender, Vancouver-based Earls restaurant took quick action to remedy the situation, announcing that female employees can now wear slacks to work if they choose. And for that, the company should be commended.

But it begs the question of why they ever stopped allowing them the choice.

When it comes to women’s restaurant attire, I can’t help but feel like we’re moving backward.

Twenty five years ago, things were different and, from my perspective at least, better.

That’s right — I am a former Earls girl.

It’s hard to recall exactly, considering I was hired in the fall of 1990, but I can only assume that one of my first orders of business upon getting the job was to run out and purchase a couple pairs of the comically high-waisted jeans that were all the rage back then (today, we call them ‘mom’ jeans), several white dress shirts and as many ugly ties as I could reasonably afford on a post-university budget.

Such were the guidelines that I and all my co-workers — men and women alike — were required to follow. Yes, it was a dress code, but it didn’t discriminate by gender.

It was in the ties that we were encouraged to let our personalities shine through — the louder and more colourful, the better.

Surrounded by a prismatic menagerie of parrots, Albino rhinos, chickens, pigs, and sundry other paper maché livestock,  it was the one way we had to stand out amidst the crazy decor.

The best part, though, was our footwear. It was the early ’90s, so it should come as no surprise that we were all running around in sturdy black Doc Martens.

In addition to being recommended by four out of five podiatrists, the shoes had the added bonus of thick, grippy soles.

Of course, even these offered no guarantee you wouldn’t occasionally fall on your denim-covered butt and watch helplessly as steamed baby potatoes rolled under tables — and between diners’ feet —  from where you would then have to gracefully retrieve them (or, you know, so I assume).

It’s no mystery why restaurants and pubs want female employees to dress in revealing clothing and high heels. It has everything to do with the bottom line — and a lot to do with money, too.

None of this is to say women shouldn’t wear short skirts, low-cut tops or even push-up bras to work, if that’s what makes them happy.

But it shouldn’t be a job requirement.

I can’t imagine any woman saying to herself, “You know what would make this six-hour shift — all of which I spend on my feet — just that little bit  more enjoyable?”  Three-inch heels.

Waiting tables is hard work, as anyone who has ever done it will tell you. So it’s not much to ask that employees be allowed to be comfortable — both physically and emotionally — in the process.

And  for some servers, that might not include being looked at like they’re the dessert.

Just Posted

City of Surrey looks to reduce building permit wait times

Staff targeting a 10-week average processing time

‘A promise is a promise’: Cloverdale lantern festival opens, two months late

After months of delays due to permit issues and uncooperative weather, Art of Lights finally opens

Cloverdale hockey team raising money for young burn survivors

Fundraiser to be hosted on Saturday at Cloverdale Crossing Save-On-Foods

Surrey considers 75% discount on senior rec passes, drop-in admission

Council to vote Monday on proposal to deeply discount rates for residents over 70

Delta-Richmond Operation Red Nose needs volunteers for New Year’s Eve

Higher demand for the service this year means ORN might not have enough drivers on Dec. 31

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

Hundreds attend Hells Angels funeral in Maple Ridge

Body of Chad John Wilson found last month face-down under the Golden Ears Bridge.

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Gas prices to climb 11 cents overnight in Lower Mainland

Hike of 17 cents in less than 48 hours due to unexpected shutdown of Washington state pipeline

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

Most Read