A recent article from CBC news suggests that some legal experts believe that requiring female restaurant staff to wear suggestive clothing while working may be a violation of Canadian human rights laws. As an example, the article cites a 2001 BC Human Rights Tribunal decision in which a female employee of a Vancouver restaurant refused to wear a bikini top to serve beverages at a Hawaiian-themed party. The Tribunal awarded her almost $6,000 after finding that the requirement was discriminatory.
The BC Human Rights Code protects employees from discrimination at work or in a situation related to work based on a legally protected personal characteristic, including gender (which includes pregnancy and transgender status), race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, political belief, marital or family status, disability, sexual orientation, age, or because that person has been convicted of a criminal offence that is unrelated to work.
The CBC News piece cites a University of Ottawa law professor as saying that she has “no doubt” that some of the outfits restaurants require of female employees equate to sex discrimination, noting that male staff who perform the same job are not required to “sexualize their clothing.”
The article also reports allegations of other widespread examples of sex discrimination and harassment in Canadian restaurants, including inappropriate touching of women, suggesting that this is part of a broader problem within the industry.
Any restaurant employee who experiences similar treatment should seek legal advice. Restaurant employers should engage lawyers experienced in labour and employment law to provide guidance about how to comply with human rights laws and prevent unlawful gender discrimination in the workplace.