British Columbia

Lawyer sparks workplace discrimination debate over Teenie Bikini Bistro

The recent opening of the Teenie Bikini Bistro in Kamloops, B.C., has an employment lawyer concerned about workplace discrimination but the restaurant's co-owner maintains it's nothing to worry about.

'We have all shapes and sizes here. Most of us have stretch marks,' co-owner says

Some of the Teenie Bikini Bistro staff at the restaurant's grand opening. (Teenie Bikini Bistro/Facebook)

The recent opening of the Teenie Bikini Bistro in Kamloops, B.C., has an employment lawyer concerned about workplace discrimination but the restaurant's co-owner maintains it's nothing to worry about.

The bistro features pub-style food served by women wearing bikinis. Kelowna lawyer David Brown with Kent Employment Law says it's disconcerting.

"I was surprised that this continues to be prevalent in this day and age ... I kind of started thinking about the legal implications of this kind of a business plan," Brown told Chris Walker, host of Daybreak South.

Brown cites the B.C. Human Rights Code, which prevents discrimination in the workplace on a number of different grounds including gender, sexual orientation and disability. He is concerned that the Teenie Bikini Bistro's hiring practices may be discriminatory toward men, older workers or workers with disabilities, among others.

No specific hiring process, co-owner says

Bistro co-owner Leeann Mcarthur says it's simply not the case. She says she has no specific hiring process, nor is it mandatory that those applying look a certain way or even be female. 

"We have all shapes and sizes here. Most of us have stretch marks," said Mcarthur.

"I've got four kids. I've got stretch marks. I'm wearing a bikini right now. And you know, I'm confident enough to do it and it doesn't bother me."

While Mcarthur has not had any men apply for serving positions at the restaurant yet, she says that as with women, she would hire men if they applied and were solid candidates.

Brown says that legally, imposing a dress code which has the potential to violate or create a different working environment on either the worker or on those workers who don't conform to that model is problematic. 

But Mcarthur says she doesn't force her waitresses to wear bikinis. They can work in whatever attire they choose.

"If the girl is confident enough, I don't care what she looks like. If she's willing to wear a bathing suit or bikini or she's comfortable in shorts … whatever she's comfortable in, wear it."

Sexual harassment 

Brown says that while the women who work at places like Teenie Bikini Bistro may consent to wearing a bikini, they do not necessarily consent to some of the sexual harassment that might happen within the workplace such as crude jokes, unwanted touching or catcalls.

"It raises concerns about challenges toward the women who are serving the floors," said Brown.

Mcarthur says sexual harassment is an unfortunate reality of the restaurant industry in general.

"You get that no matter what kind of job you're working," she said. "Honestly, I think the men are a little more cautious here," she said of the restaurant's patrons. 

Health and safety

Brown also has concerns surrounding health and safety in the workplace.

"Are these servers going to be safe serving hot foods? ... there's a potential here for a personal injury by burning on their midriff or something like that," said Brown.

For Mcarthur, the Teenie Bikini Bistro is no different than much larger businesses such as sports or cocktail bars.

"The lounges I've been to in Kamloops, those girls are pretty much wearing next to nothing. Are they safe serving hot food?" Mcarthur said, explaining that opening her restaurant was a smooth process.

"With health and safety, if it wasn't OK, we wouldn't have gotten our licence."

Listen to the full interview with David Brown here:

A new restaurant in Kamloops has caught the eye of a Kelowna employment lawyer, who says the business's hiring practices and dress code could be considered discriminatory and increase the potential for sexual harassment. 6:00

With files from Daybreak South

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