Women urge Manitoba Human Rights Commission to take stand on sexualized dress codes at work
'It is a human rights violation and I think that they need to step up,' says Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey
Two women are urging the Manitoba Human Rights Commission to issue a statement detailing its position on sexualized dress codes in the workplace.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission released a statement calling for an end to sexualized dress codes that discriminate on Tuesday, International Women's Day.
Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey and Allison Ferry have asked the Manitoba commission to do the same.
"I think that women deserve to have labour rights, they deserve to have a safe working environment, they deserve to have a work environment that's free from sexual advances, discrimination, sexist dress codes," said Tuckett-McGimpsey.
"I think it is a human rights violation and I think that they need to step up, see what Ontario's doing and do the same thing."
CBC's recent Marketplace investigation into women's dress codes at popular restaurants sparked Tuckett-McGimpsey and Ferry to start a Change.org petition directed at the heads of Earls Restaurants, Moxie's Grill and Bar, JOEY Restaurants and Jack Astor's Bar and Grill.
"We're saying enough with the sexist dress codes and asking them to change their policies," said Tuckett-McGimpsey.
So far the petition has more than 2,000 signatures.
Unequal treatment is still a daily challenge for women.- Heather Unger
Tuckett-McGimpsey said anything from a uniform that's gender-specific to mandating skirt and high heel lengths are considered to be a sexualized dress code.
"It's 2016 and this sort of discrimination and sexist dress codes, they're just not welcome anymore," she said.
Tuckett-McGimpsey said when she worked as a massage therapist she would see women who work at restaurants who had problems with their back, knees and feet.
"I heard from them that they're not allowed to wear flats or if they wore a smaller heel they'd get a worse section or they'd be questioned if they really wanted to work there," she said.
Tuckett-McGimpsey said even if restaurants have mandates that only require a one-inch heel or a skirt no shorter than a fingertip length above the knee, she has heard from servers that they wear higher heels and shorter skirts.
"It is a workplace culture. Just because they say we only require an inch heel, that's not what goes on in the restaurant," she said.
"I really want people to sign the petition and if you're working in one of these restaurants, please talk to the human rights commission. Let them know that this isn't acceptable."
'A lot of work to do'
Heather Unger, lawyer for the Manitoba Human Rights Commission (MHRC), applauded the pair for raising the issue, especially on International Women's Day.
"There's still a lot of work to do around this issue. As the Ontario Commission has said, unequal treatment is still a daily challenge for women," Unger said.
"It raises the underlying principles of the human rights code, which is our provincial human rights legislation, which is that all people should be treated equally on the basis of their merit. Once a person is treated differently, based on some aspect of their identity, a human rights issue may be at play there."
Unger said the MHRC has received complaints about Manitoba businesses mandating discriminatory dress codes for female employees. None of have ever gone to a public hearing, but many have been settled in a variety of other ways.
"The commission's role really is a gatekeeper and so each of the complaints that we receive and investigate; we look to see if there is evidence supporting the complaint. And it's only the evidence that the commission feels has merit that go to an adjudication hearing.... It's not the commission itself," she said.
"When they are treating employees different because they are a woman, that's when the human rights commission comes into play. That's when policies become problematic."