A former employee says that during a Joey Restaurants' training session she was required to wear high heels as part of the dress code, leaving her feet bloodied, but the company is calling it a misunderstanding and says its code allows the wearing of wedges, flats or heels.
The 21-year-old Edmonton woman, whom CBC News has agreed not to name, took a photo of her bloodied feet from wearing high heels during a training session in late April.
Her friend, Nicola Gavins, posted it on Facebook and it has garnered a lot of criticism of the Vancouver-based company.
The woman says she was told by her manager that she had to wear heels, a minimum of a one-inch heel and a maximum of a three-inch heel. She also got a training manual from Joey that said the same.
Dress code in question
This account is just the latest in a string of allegations about dress codes at some restaurants that may violate women's human rights, according to some experts.
CBC Marketplace investigated the dress codes at some of Canada's top restaurant chains and heard from dozens of female staff who say they felt pressured to wear revealing outfits or risk losing shifts.
Earls, which is owned by the same company as Joey, recently amended its policy to allow female servers to wear pants instead of skirts.
- 'So tight that you can see your underwear': Women speak out against restaurant dress codes
- Restaurant dress codes open to human rights complaints
- Earls restaurants change dress code in wake of CBC report on sexism concern
At Joey, the former employee says that when her feet hurt on her first day of training, she spoke to her manager. But she says she was told to invest in a better pair of heels, so she bought a new pair.
But close to the end of her second training shift, she could no longer stand.
"My feet were bleeding and swollen. I lost a couple of toe nails. I was just in tears," she told CBC News.
The Edmonton woman finished the rest of her shift in flats, but says she was told she had to wear heels the next day.
She says her manager told her only a doctor's note stating she had a medical condition would waive the heels-only policy.
That's when she decided to quit.
"I wear heels all the time, so it's not like I can't do it. But it's standing around for several hours on your feet in heels that's just impossible," she said.
"It's just sexist and unsafe."
She also said that Joey did not pay her for the training shifts and told her to sign a waiver to that effect.
Joey denies heels-only policy
Joey says its current guidelines require both female and male staff to wear a black dress shoe that is non-slip with a thick sole for safety reasons.
'Under this guide, they choose what is comfortable for them. There is no minimum height when it comes to our shoe policy," said Sasha Perrin, a communications manager for Joey based in Vancouver, in an email to CBC.
"Shoes range from black dress flats, wedges and heels. For those employees wearing heels, we require the heel height to be no higher than 2.5"."
She said, "We were upset to see this [Facebook] post" and that the company has reached out to the employee.
"What is clear from this incident is that, internally, there was a lack of communication and understanding around our guidelines."
Perrin also said that Joey has always strictly followed Alberta's regulations for training pay and does not charge a fee for uniforms.
"The health, safety and well-being of our employees are of the utmost importance to us."
The former employee is considering pursuing legal action against Joey. She also received a cheque for her training days on May 10.