British Columbia

Lipstick discrimination case hits human rights tribunal

A server who claims she was fired from a Maple Ridge pub for refusing to wear lipstick and makeup has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Server at Maple Ridge pub claims a physical disability precludes her from wearing makeup

A server at a Maple Ridge pub claims she was fired for refusing to wear makeup and coloured lipstick as required by the establishment's dress code. (The Associated Press)

A woman who claims she was fired from her job as a server at a Maple Ridge pub for refusing to wear makeup and coloured lipstick has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Anne Choi claims she has a "diagnosed physical disability" which precludes her from wearing makeup.

According to a tribunal decision, the Black Sheep Pub's managers admitted to repeatedly advising Choi "she was required to wear eye makeup and coloured lipstick in accordance with the pub's dress code for all front-end staff."

Coloured lipstick — not clear lip balm

Choi worked at the pub between September and December 2015. The issue allegedly arose in November, when manager Sabrina Wong asked Choi why she was not wearing lipstick.

"In this regard, Sabrina Wong recalls that Ms. Choi said she was wearing chapstick," the decision says.

"The same day the respondents posted a 'Procedural Change' sheet advising all front-end staff to ensure that they were wearing makeup, including coloured lipstick and not merely clear lip balm."

The pub sought to defer the complaint pending the outcome of a WorkSafeBC proceeding which covers similar ground.

But tribunal member Catherine McCreary dismissed the application to defer, finding the two bodies have different powers around compensation and the ability to declare certain activities contrary to the human rights code.

Dress codes have come before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in the past.

In 2004, the tribunal found that a nightclub's dress standard was not applied equally between male and female employees when a female server claimed she was forced to wear a bikini top to a Hawaiian theme night.

And in 2010, a female server in a different nightclub claimed women were forced to wear high-heeled shoes, miniskirts and shirts showing cleavage. Women were also expected to wear their hair down rather than up.

That case was resolved before going to a formal hearing.

Choi could not be reached for comment. The lawyer for the pub declined comment.